If you have a family member or know of someone who was on the USS Henry R. Mallory please e-mail me and I will add that mans story with his shipmates.
Heather has shared two newspaper articles likely printed in the Quincy Patriot Ledger, (Quincy, MA) one of the articles is an account of the sinking by one of the Mallory’s Merchant Marines, a Cook by the name of George Dunningham, and the second article (transcribed below) is about Captain Macdonald, which tells about a visit after the rescue, to Captain Macdonald’s parents by George Dunningham to tell them about how their son sacrificed his life to save others.
|Quincy Chaplain Killed In War To Be Honored
The Newington Town Congregational Church of Newington, New Hampshire will place a cathedral chair in the Chapel Of The Three Faiths, now nearing completion in Philadelphia, in memory of the late Rev. Ernest W. S. Macdonald of Quincy. The Chapel is being constructed to honor and commemorate all chaplains who, in the fulfillment of their duty, gave their lives in World War II.
Rev. Macdonald is the son of Mrs. J. Ernest Macdonald of 177 Billings Road, North Quincy, and the late Mr. Macdonald. A native of Quincy, Rev. Mr. Macdonald began his education in Quincy schools. He prepared for college at Thayer Academy and due to his activities in the Order of De Molay was known to hundreds of young man on the South Shore, by whom he was affectionately called "Pat." After his graduation from Dalhousie university and Andover Newton School of theology, he was called to the Newington church, where he was ordained and began his ministry. In 1940, he accepted a call to Community Church in Garden City, Kansas., from which Parish he entered the service of his country.
Just before leaving for overseas he was promoted to Captain. The ship to which he was assigned, the USS Henry R. Mallory, was torpedoed February 7th, 1943, while en route to Iceland. The ship carried a heavy cargo and 1,400 men, 202 of whom were saved. Sometime later, one of the survivors, George K. Dunningham of Winthrop, visited Captain Macdonald's parents. He told them of his having begged their son (whom he met in the companion way, after the torpedo hit the ship) to accompany him to a lifeboat. This, Captain Macdonald refused to do. Instead, he went below to help bring the injured men up on deck.
Capt. Ernest W. S. Macdonald, Army Chaplain
Ernest Warburton Stewart “Pat” Macdonald was born on December 25, 1911 to John Ernest and Patience (Stewart) Macdonald in Boston, MA. John was born on November 19, 1881 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. John’s father was from Scotland and his mother was Canadian. Patience was born in Clyde River, Prince Edward Island in 1876. Both John and Patience emigrated from Canada to the United States, which is where they actually met. After John and Patience were married they made their home at 177 Billings Road in Quincy, Massachusetts. John Ernest was issued his Naturalization Card on January 10, 1944 by the State of Massachusetts. John and Patience had their first child, a daughter named Catherine, who was born about 1901. Catherine lived to be 17-years old and passed away from tuberculosis.
A second child born to John and Patience was a son was named Ernest Warburton Stewart, born on December 25, 1911. And lastly there was a daughter named Mabel who was born about 1916. In April of 1930 John, Patience, Ernest and Mabel were still living at 177 Billings Road in Quincy where John Ernest worked as a plumber to support his family. The 1930 Federal Census recorded the value of the home on Billings Avenue at $6,000, which was owned by John and Patience. Additionally the Census records show that the Macdonald’s did have one of the luxuries of the day, a radio set in the home.
Ernest had two middle names, Warburton Stewart. John Macdonald’s younger brother was named Warburton who had died at about the age of 20 back in Charlottetown, Canada and so Ernest took this name from the uncle he never knew. Ernest took the name of Stewart from his mother’s maiden name.
Young Ernest grew up in a hard working family structure and at some point in his youthful life felt the calling to serve in the ministry. After graduation from High School at Thayer Academy in Braintree, MA, Ernest Macdonald attended the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where in 1938 he earned a B. A. degree. While at Dalhousie, Ernest also took courses at the Pine Hill Divinity School for 3-years. Pine Hill Divinity School was run by the United Church and was also located in Halifax near Dalhousie. In 1971 the Pine Hill School merged and today is known as the Atlantic School of Theology and is located in the same buildings as the old Pine Hill School. Upon graduation from Dalhousie in 1938 Ernest attended Andover-Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, MA where in 1939 he earned his B. D. Degree.
Now with a Theological degree Rev. Ernest W. S. “Pat” Macdonald as a member of the Congregationalist Church began his ministerial career at the Newington Congregationalist Church in Newington, New Hampshire. As Rev. Macdonald was called to serve the Newington Church, it was here that upon graduation from Dalhousie, he was ordained and began his first pastorate, in which he would serve from 1938-1940.
During the summer of 1940, Rev. Marvin Brown, the pastor at the Community Congregationalist Church in Garden City, Kansas, left his church and entered service into the Army’s Corps of Chaplains as a Major. Rev. Ernest “Pat” Macdonald was then called upon to fill the vacancy at Community Church in Garden City, Kansas, left by Rev. Brown. And so Rev. Macdonald moved his family to Garden City, Kansas to begin his second pastorate.
While at the Garden City church, Rev. “Pat” Macdonald was a very popular minister. At the Community Church a young people’s group was started and was named “The Macdonald’s Club” in honor of the popular “Rev. Pat.”
Rev. Macdonald was a man of great character and so when America was pulled into the war in December of 1941 he felt the call to serve his Country just as he was serving in his ministry. And so in this light Rev. Macdonald on April 22, 1942 enlisted into the Army Corps of Chaplains just as Major Rev. Marvin Brown had done before him two-years previous.
On April 23, 1942 Rev. “Pat” Macdonald bid farewell to his church in Garden City, Kansas and left for training at Ft. Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis, Indiana. After training he was sent to serve in Oregon for a short while before he was called to serve in Europe.
When 1st Lt. Ernest Macdonald left his church in Garden City he did not know what fate had in store for him, but he knew that faith in the God he served would carry him through whatever lay ahead of him. After entering the Corps of Chaplains his wife Katherine B. Macdonald and their two children, Gregory and Heather went back to Wollaston, MA to live.
While Lt. Macdonald was in the Army he was assigned to the 9th Service Command. Shortly before being ordered to New York where he would sail from he was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Captain “Pat” Macdonald sailed to Iceland aboard the transport USS Henry R. Mallory, a trip that never made it to their intended destination but Captain Macdonald would do his intended duty in giving aid and comfort and his life to his fellow shipmates during their time in need. Captain Macdonald gave his life on Sunday, February 7, 1943 along four other of the seven chaplains aboard the Mallory. The Chaplains who perished that day were; Captain David H. Youngdahl; 1st Lt. Fr. Valmore Savignac; 1st Lt. Horace E. Gravely and 1st Lt. James E. Liston. Two other chaplains were saved that day, Chaplains Ira Bentley and G. J. Whelan.
It was not until the 29th of July 1943, almost six and a half months after the sinking that Captain Macdonald’s wife Katherine was notified that her husband and father of her two children was missing and presumed dead. On 29 July 1943 Captain Macdonald’s parents were sent this letter from the War Department:
29 July 1943
Dear Mr. And Mrs. Macdonald:
It is with profound regret that I must inform you of the death of your son, Chaplain (Captain) Ernest W. S. Macdonald, 0-449-888, Corps of Chaplains, who died as a result of enemy action in the North Atlantic Ocean. A Telegram announcing his death was sent to his wife, Mrs. Katherine B. Macdonald, 21 Langley Circle, Wollaston, Massachusetts, who had been designated by him as the person to be notified in case of an emergency.
He was a passenger on a ship, which was attacked shortly after midnight by an enemy submarine. After the vessel was struck every effort was made to effect the rescue of those who were aboard. Such efforts were continued long beyond the period of time that human life could survive the elements in the area. In view of the compelling evidence, it has been determined and entered officially on the records of the War Department that he was killed in action on 7 February 1943.
I regret exceedingly that because of the necessity for extensive inquiry to substantiate the fact of death, it has been necessary to delay this report until every possible source of information could be checked.
It is distressing that this tragic message must be added to the burden of grief you have borne so bravely since our original missing in action report. May the thought that he gave his life heroically in action be of sustaining comfort to you.
Please accept me deepest sympathy in your great loss.
While aboard the Mallory Captain Macdonald met one of the Mallory’s cooks named George Dunningham. He was a member of the Mallory’s Merchant Marines and Dunningham and his dog, named “Ricky” both survived the sinking. Captain Macdonald may have given comfort to Dunningham or it was the Captain’s great example of courage in the face of danger that was impressed upon Dunningham, we will never know for sure. But, it is enough to say that after the rescue of the men from the Mallory and Dunningham was back in the states, he went to see the Captains parents, John and Patience, to tell them about what had happened to their son on the awful Sunday morning. Captain Ernest W. S. “Pat” Macdonald was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously later during the war.
In late summer 1944 Captain Macdonald’s mother, Patience had written to the President of Iceland asking about her son. President Sveinn Björnsson then contacted Major General William S. Key, USA the Commanding officer of the Iceland Base with the request from Mrs. Macdonald. General key then wrote back to Mrs. Macdonald with this letter:
Headquarters Iceland Base Command
11 September 1944
My dear Mrs. Macdonald:
The President of Iceland turned over to me the letter you wrote him recently concerning your son and asked me to write to you.
Chaplain G. J. Whelan, now on duty in Iceland, was on the boat with your son. I have discussed the tragedy with him, and I am glad to furnish you his statement as follows:
“I got to know Chaplain Macdonald fairly well en route. He took turns with the other Protestant chaplains in holding services for the men of the Protestant Faith. On the day before the fatal disaster, as the weather was clear, we had boxing matches on the quarter deck in which Chaplain Macdonald took an active part. He was a likeable chap.”
“On the night of 6 February 1943 a Saturday we were alerted about 2300 hrs due to the fact that some other ships had been hit and that the U-boats were on our trail. The weather had gone sour and the sea was rough. After standing around in readiness for a few hours we decided to go to bed. At 0200 hrs on Sunday, 7 February 1943, there was another alert but only for the gun crews. At 0400 hrs there was a terrific explosion. We had been hit after of midships on the lee side. The torpedo struck way below the waterline and blew a hole large enough for a two and half ton truck to go thru. This I saw. Practically all the men sailors and marines, who were in the hold, were killed instantly. There was confusion down there in the hold and much running down the companionways. The last I saw of Chaplain Macdonald was when he left his stateroom, which was adjoining mine and the other chaplains. From accounts with other men who were saved with me I learned that he was washed off a raft. He had done heroic work in calming the men, as did the other chaplains. From what I know the only ones who survived were those picked up by the two Coast Guard Cutters the USS Bibb and the USS Ingham. For none could have lived in that sea alone in that cold.”
“There were two chaplains saved out of the nine on board... Chaplain Ira Bentley and I. His story I am sure will coincide with mine.”
The man who resembles your son in the picture is an enlisted man. Had it been your son, even if he had been out of his mind, we would have identified him by fingerprints.
There can be no doubt about the loss of your son in the sinking of the Mallory, and I am sorry that I can offer you no encouragement. Please accept my sincere sympathy in your bereavement. It should be comforting to you to know that your son exhibited heroism by calming the men in the midst of death. We are proud of his record.
After the war and Captain Macdonald had been declared dead, his widow Katherine and the children Gregory and Heather who had been living in Wollaston, Massachusetts eventually moved to England where Katherine remarried. She married a former British Royal Navy Lt. Commander, Robert J. Barcham. Katherine Macdonald Barcham lived the rest of her life in England and passed away in April of 1991. Heather Macdonald Moe, who shared the newspaper articles and photo is the daughter of Gregory Macdonald and granddaughter of Captain Ernest Macdonald.
|During the same convoy that the Mallory was traveling in was another ship named the USS Dorchester in which were 4 Chaplains who lost their lives when the Dorchester was torpedoed and sank four days before the Mallory entered the same fate. Aboard the Dorchester, her 4 Chaplains displayed the same courage as the Chaplains aboard the Mallory did during their final moments of impending doom. The Dorchester’s chaplains all gave their lives and this was a story that caught the attention of the nation at the time. After the war a chapel, known as The Chapel of the 4 Chaplains, was dedicated to remember all chaplains who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the war. Captain Macdonald’s first church, the Newington Congregational Church placed an alter chair in the Chapel of the 4 Chaplains in honor of their departed friend and pastor Captain Macdonald. There is also in the chapel at Andover-Newton Theological School, a bronze plaque placed in memory of Captain Macdonald by his former classmates.
The plaque on the right is the bronze plaque that was placed by Chaplain Macdonald’s classmates at Andover-Newton Theological School, which is located in the Colby Chapel. It is written in Latin and the top half is dedicated to Chaplain Macdonald of the class of 1939, with the bottom half in memory to Dietrich F. E. Rasetzki, of the class of 1941, who was a 1st Lieutenant in the Army. He was killed in action on July 25, 1944, and his body was finally laid to rest in the Long Island National Cemetery on May 20, 1948.
 According to the list of Chaplains killed during WWII there were only 5 chaplains from the USS Henry R. Mallory. These 5 plus the 2 saved is 7 total chaplains. Being that this letter was written 1 year and seven months after the sinking, Chaplain Wehlan may have made an error.
 Mrs. Macdonald had included a clipping of some rescued men, which she thought might have been her son, of the Mallory from LIFE magazine when she had written to the President of Iceland.
Valmore G. Savignac was born on April 26, 1911 in Providence Rhode Island. Valmore’s father was a French-Canadian who immigrated the Rhode Island about 1890. His name was John Valmore Savignac and young Valmore took his first name from his father’s middle name.
John Savignac in 1910 had made his home in Providence, RI where he had taken a job as a policeman for the city of Providence. About four years previous, on June 20, 1906 John had married, and her name was Annie P. born about 1882 in Rhode Island.
John and Annie started their family when their first child was born, a daughter named Mary E. born in May of 1908. Another daughter named Anna E., who was born about September 1909, followed this and on April 26, 1911 Valmore G. the first son was born. And lastly another daughter named Rita was born sometime in 1915. All four of the Savignac children were born in Providence, RI.
Annie P. Savignac passed away on January 2, 1921 and her husband John Valmore Savignac passed away on November 4, 1928. Sometime after Annie P. died John remarried to a woman named Mary who was born in Rhode Island about 1888. John and Annie and the children had made their home at 839 Atwell Avenue in Providence and when John remarried to Mary they still lived in the same house on Atwell Ave. After John’s death in 1928 Mary his widow still kept the house, which was owned by John and valued at $5,100. By April of 1930 Mary was still living there in the house on Atwell Ave., but the eldest daughter of John and Annie, also named Mary who would have been 22-years old at the time had moved out of the house. Mary the stepmother supported John’s remaining children, Anna, Valmore and Rita, by working as a department store bookkeeper. Anna the second eldest daughter who was 20-years old at the time was working as a nurse in a local Providence hospital.
1st Lt. Fr. Valmore G. Savignac
At the age of 17-years Valmore G. Savignac around the time of his father’s death in 1928 began attending the LaSalle Academy in Providence. This was an all boys’ college prep school in downtown Providence that served the Cathedral and Saint John Parishes. Here Valmore’s Roman Catholic upbringing were to be enriched and would propel him to become a Catholic Chaplain in the Army, a career in which he one day would give his life for his fellow shipmates.
After graduation from LaSalle Academy, Valmore attended the Providence College for 2 years of studies. Valmore went on to get his bachelors degree from the House of Philosophy in 1932 and then went on to the Grand Seminary in Montreal, Canada where he graduated in 1936 with an S.T.B. and S.T.L. degree.
It is not known for sure why Valmore entered service into the Army. It may have been from the example of his father, John who was a public servant as a policeman in Providence, or it may have been due to his father could have served in the military during WWI, as it is known that John Savignac did register for the draft on September 12, 1918, and likely could have served then. But whatever it was that called Valmore to serve his fellow man, Valmore on June 9, 1942 enlisted into the Army Chaplain Corps at Oakland Beach, Rhode Island. On June 20, 1942, 1st Lt. Valmore G. Savignac reported Ft. Eustis, Virginia. He was later assigned to Camp Myles Standish in Massachusetts.
As 1943 began a new year of war, Lt. Savignac was called on for duty in Europe. This would mean duty on the battlefield where he would enter combat armed only with a set of rosary beads a bible and a communion set. He was going where his services to his fellow men were desperately needed. A duty that had to be done and Valmore knew he was called on by a higher power to do it.
Orders came about the middle of January 1943 and by the 23rd of January, 1st Lt. Valmore G. Savignac was one of several Chaplains sailing aboard the transport USS Henry R. Mallory. This trip would be chaplain Savignac’s one and only combat experience, as his convoy of 61 ships was sailing into a blood bath at the hands of the German U-boat crews. There was no way the men aboard the Mallory could know their fates as they sailed past the Statue of Liberty for the last time.
It is not known how Lt. Savignac’s final hours came to a close but at least two of the chaplains aboard the Mallory gave their lives so that others may live. Lt. Savignac along with 4 other Chaplains aboard the Mallory perished that morning in February.
Valmore G. Savignac, the son of a policeman was killed in action on February 7, 1943 and was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. His family was notified of his missing in action status about a month after the sinking and then as per law was declared dead one year and a day after the sinking on February 8, 1944. During WWII, Fr. Valmore G. Savignac, 1st Lt. Army Chaplain Corps was the first chaplain killed in action during the war from the state of Rhode Island.
Father James M. Liston, 1st Lt. Chaplain
"Forever on duty giving aid and comfort to all who wear the uniform of this great country"
In Arlington National Cemetery on Chaplain’s Hill there is a stone with a large bronze plaque, which commemorates the names of 83 Catholic Chaplains, who gave their lives in service to their fellow soldiers, sailors and marines as well as their God and country. Of the 83 Chaplains 77 were killed during WWII alone. Among the 83 names on this bronze plaque appears the name of James M. Liston. He was a Roman Catholic Chaplain serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army Chaplain Corps.
James M. Liston was a native of the Chicago area and was born on 16 September 1905 in Chicago. Liston was a first generation Irish Catholic and was the eldest son of James Joseph and Margaret Liston. His parents, James Joseph and Margaret, were born in Ireland and had married about 1901 or 1902. James Joseph Liston was born in Ireland on March 14, 1880 and was a medium built man with blue eyes and brown hair. It’s likely he and Margaret were married in Ireland and then in 1902 immigrated to the United States, both obtaining their citizenship in November of 1907.
The Liston’s made their way to Chicago where they would settle down to start a family in their new Country. During 1910 the family home was located on Morgan Street in Chicago where James Joseph worked as a streetcar conductor. By then the family had already grown to include eldest son James M. Liston born in 1905, second son John J. born in 1908 and a third son William born about 1909. Also living in the home were James Joseph’s two brothers, Dennis who was 26-years old and Patrick who was 22-years old. Both brothers were single and had only come to the States the year before sometime in 1909. Dennis worked as a streetcar motorman and Patrick was a bartender in true Irish fashion. Additionally in the Liston home lived Margaret’s sister, Ellen Noonan. She was 32-years old, single and worked as a dressmaker.
By the beginning of 1920 the James Joseph Liston family had now grown to include a daughter named Anna M. born in 1911 and another son named Thomas born in 1914. The family now lived at 7116 Green St. in Chicago in a home which James and Margaret owned. James M., the eldest son attended the Quigley Preparatory Seminary and graduated there in 1925. The Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary was a high school administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago for young men considering the priesthood. Located in downtown Chicago, Illinois at 103 East Chestnut Street adjacent to Loyola University Chicago and near Water Tower Place, it has since closed in 2007, and now serves as the Pastoral Center and headquarters of the Archdiocese after being renovatied. So before James M. Liston had graduated high school he already had the calling into the priesthood.
James M. Liston went on to attend and graduate from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in 1931. University of Saint Mary of the Lake, also called Mundelein Seminary, is the principal seminary and school of theology for the formation of priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. Now ordained in the Roman Catholic Church Father James M. Liston began his ministry. It will never be known exactly what called Father Liston to enter the Army Chaplain Corps, but it was likely that he may have been present at the Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary on May 18, 1937, when Cardinal Mundelein, speaking to 500 priests during a quarterly diocesan conference, lashed out at Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering for using the pretext of "immorality" and sexual scandals to attack Catholic religious orders, organizations, and Germa Catholic schools, which at the time educated two million children. Mundelein championed Quigley, and personally recruited Catholic families to send their sons into the priesthood. We will never know but it may have been Mundelein’s famous speech at Quigley where he called Hitler a “Paperhanger” that moved Father Liston to join the Army Chaplain Corps.
In Naperville, Illinois on 22 April 1942 Father James M. Liston entered the U.S. Army. He was given the rank of 1st Lt. and his service number was O-462 733. His first assignment in 1942 was at Camp Croft, South Carolina. Orders finally came for Chaplain Liston to be assigned to duty in Iceland in late 1942 and by the end of January 1943 he found himself along with 6 other chaplains sailing on the Henry R. Mallory bound for Iceland. Chaplain Liston was not among the men rescued from the sinking of the Mallory but his body was identified along with Alfred Wolf of the Naval Armed Guard. Both were already dead from the effects of the cold water. Due to the pressing need to get the men who were alive there was no time to recover those who had already perished.
On the evening of February 6th, the evening of the disaster the Chaplains aboard held a service for the men. In the words of Wilson Flartey one of the Mallory’s survivors he relates of the service that evening; “Word was passed that there would be a prayer meeting in the mess hall at 1900 hrs. Several of us decided to attend. The leader of the meeting was a chaplain, denomination unknown. His sermon was on the Lord’s Prayer. He took the prayer phrase by phrase and explained its meaning. The phrase ‘Thy will be done’ made a particularly strong impression on me. After the meeting we went below to our quarters. It was soon time to turn in.” It can’t be said for sure if the leader of this prayer meeting was Father Liston but this was an example of the work that the Chaplains did on board the ship to help the men from their fears.
About the time the torpedo struck Tom Sullivan was getting a cup of coffee. He and Father Liston were together talking while drinking coffee at the moment of the impact of the torpedo. In Sullivan’s words “There was no mistaking the fact that the Mallory had sustained a finishing attack.”
Another example of how the Chaplains were always looking out for the men was told by Manny Silvia. He had been waiting until the Mallory had almost gone under before leaving her. As the side of the Mallory got lower and lower in the water a Chaplain came over to Silvia and gave him a chocolate bar saying ‘you might need this.’ Eventually Silvia was able to walk right off the side of the ship from where he was standing into the water. Silvia started to swim and watched the Mallory go under. He swam to some wreckage where several others were clinging. The energy Silvia used to swim to the wreckage may have come from the chocolate bar given to him by the unknown Chaplain.
Back home in Chicago on August 3, 1943 a letter from the War Department arrived at 6613 S. Honore St. addressed to Mr. And Mrs. James Joseph Liston informing them that their son 1st Lt. James M. Liston, O462733, United States Army, Chaplain Corps gave his life on February 7, 1943. Father Liston is forever on duty giving aid and comfort to all who wear the uniform of this great country. Chaplain Liston was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.
1st Lt. Horace E. Gravely, USA Chaplain Corps
"Go Ye Into All the World and Preach the Gospel." This passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew was the inspiration for a stained glass window (outside back cover photo) in Grace United Methodist Church in Pickens, South Carolina. The family of Reverend Horace Edward Gravely donated the window in his memory in 1948. Another United Methodist Church (inside back cover photo) at the edge of the city of Spartanburg, South Carolina was formed the same year and then renamed Gravely Memorial in 1950 in his memory to recognize that he was the only one of thirty-seven chaplains in the state's two white Methodist conferences to be killed in the Second World War. His name appears on the monuments in back of Pickens' courthouse remembering veterans from the county killed in all wars dating back to the 18th century. A memorial in New York City's Battery Park honors him among American military men lost at sea in the North Atlantic during World War II. In 1943 Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson awarded his family a posthumous Purple Heart, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote his widow his condolences -a citation on display at Gravely Memorial Church. President John F. Kennedy added a tribute, dated November 2, 1963, sent just three weeks before he was killed.
Chaplain Horace Gravely pictured in uniform always held a prominent place on a shelf or on a side table near a sitting chair in the home of his mother until her death in 1969. His departure in December 1942 from that house on Gravley1 Road in the Twelve Mile Community of Pickens County is my earliest memory. It was the house where his father Will Gravely had died in 1918 and where his mother, Hannah Elizabeth McKinney Gravely, known affectionately as Miss or Aunt Betty Gravely, lived her widowhood for more than a half century. Until1994 it remained the residence of Horace's sister Frances Gravely Winchester, who taught school locally for forty years, and of her husband, a furniture maker, Ernest Winchester.
The anniversaries of Horace's birth each October and of his death each February became occasions for recollection by his next oldest brother and my father, W. Marvin Gravely as he wrote in his journals from age 82 until his death at age 91 in 1995. In 1988 when he was nearly 85 years old, Marvin went with my brother Don, some Eastatoe community residents and me to search for any artifacts around his and Horace's McKinney grandparents' home up the mountains above Pickens. He did uncover the spring where Mary Emma lissa Alexander McKinney drew water. And more poignantly, he found a beech tree where he and Horace had carved their initials about 1916. Those marks had endured more than seven decades.
The stories which follow trace how Horace Gravely's life was shaped by the network of his extended families, how he, his mother and siblings faced the death of his father in 1918, how he seized the chance to go to college and prepare for the Christian ministry and how his pastoral career unfolded down through his service in the chaplaincy ending with his death at sea. That tragedy left its impression on his wife and children and other relatives, friends and colleagues enduring to our own time. This memoir seeks to detail these events and the impact of his life and of his sacrificial death upon those who have remembered for the sake of those who come after.
Within fifteen days after Horace Gravely's birth in the fall of 1901, the pall of death fell upon his parents Alvin Willoughby (called Will) and Betty Gravely. The next oldest child George Maurice Newton Gravely died October 25 that year from diphtheria and scarlet fever. A little more than a month later on November 28 death struck the oldest son, four-year-old Rufus. He had spent the previous month searching the house for Maurice, calling his name before he too choked to death from these illnesses. Maurice's death gave Will Gravely the occasion to write an obituary tribute in The Pickens Sentinel in which he spoke of his son being "an usually bright and lovely child, full of life and merriment, a joy and sunshine to our home. Though not quite two years old," the grieving father went on to say, "he had learned parts of several songs, 'Happy Day' being his favorite." These two deaths falling so quickly one after the other filled both parents with grief, even as they showered their affection upon the only remaining child, newly born Horace. Following Methodist custom they had the preacher at Porter's Chapel Methodist Church, C. L. McCain administer the sacrament of infant baptism for him.
These events occurred in the home of Horace's grandparents, Lontford Ballenger Gravely and Naomi Winchester Gravely. The house also served for a time as the Pindor South Carolina rural post office. Will and Betty Gravely moved in with his parents following their wedding at McKinney Chapel Church February 25, 1896 and after the Twelve Mile community had showered them with congratulations at an infaring dinner. The custom dated back to England. The Ballenger Gravely home place was up the hill from where Will and Betty Gravely bought 98 acres of land and a house in January 1901. They rented their new property first to a cousin Alfred McNalley (Nal) Gravley and then to Will Aiken. After additions were made to the house, they would move their growing family into it in 1910. But Horace, his deceased brothers Rufus and Maurice, his brothers Marvin and Tom and sister Eula were all born in their grandparents' home which was destroyed by fire January.
Horace's father Will and his uncle Calvin McNally (Mack) Gravely were twin brothers, born January 10, 1866 almost exactly nine months from the time Ballenger Gravely came back from the Confederate Army. After the death of his infant daughter Charity Lavada (who lived only the month of February, 1863), at the age of 35 and a father of five living children, he had gone into service April25, 1863 as a private in Ferguson's Battalion of Artillery. Working as a teamster with mule drawn wagons behind the lines, he was at the bloody Confederate defeat at Franklin, Tennessee under General John B. Hood. He was under General Joseph Johnston's command when he mustered out of service on April9, 1865 at Salisbury, North Carolina From there he came to Greenville, South Carolina, part of the way on a pump car with three other men on remaining rail tracks. Then he walked in to the mountains above Pickens where his wife and children awaited his return. The house where they lived at the time, with Ballenger serving as overseer of slaves for a farm owned by Dr. Francis Miles before he went into the army, still exists off Highway 178, behind and up the road from where Ballenger's son W. Isaac Gravely lived.
Four of Horace's Gravely uncles; John Louis, Joseph Benjamin, Barnett Alexander and Asbury Miles nicknamed Doc went to Texas, but the twins, Will and Mack, remained with their parents. As an incentive not to join their brothers in moving to Texas, Ballenger promised to provide them both with formal education under a regionally famous schoolmaster John Edens. In 1883 he bought from his wife's family, the Winchesters, 283 acres including what had originally been Anderson's Com Mill. With his twin sons Ballenger first expanded the Gravely Mill to grind flour. A steam engine powered cotton gin was later added and a sawmill. Besides their own crops the Gravely’s made their living on shares with surrounding farmers, obtaining 1110 of the grain or com and 1140 of the seed cotton in exchange for their milling and ginning.
Before Will and Mack quit the gin in 1910, Horace and his younger brother Marvin would walk down the hill past Colonel 0. P. Field's house to the Gravely Mill to take their father's lunch to him. Their father would allow the boys to push the lint cotton into the press, but one day Horace fell in and Will had to jump down quickly and lift him out. The boys witnessed at least the aftermath of a more serious accident when cousin Steve Galloway, whose wife was a Gravely, got his hand caught in the gin and mangled. Horace's father put cotton on the hand to stop the blood until they could lay him on a table in the yard to await further help. Dr. George W. Earle and another physician sawed the arm off and Will Gravely buried it. Horace and his younger siblings watched Steve Galloway recover and adjust to life with one arm.
On March 30, 1908 and again three years later September 1, 1911 Horace and Marvin also accompanied their father to funerals of baby girls of their Aunt Blake Corbin McKinney and her husband, J. T. (Tom) McKinney. Both were born and then died on the same day. In the first instance Marvin remembered their carrying "the dead baby in the back seat of our buggy" up to their grandparents' place on Big Eastatoe, which had roots back to the first McKinney settlements in the 1790s. From there they went up to McKinney Chapel Church to inter the stillborn. "My Dad conducted the little girl’s funeral service and the neighbors dug the grave and they buried the little girl," Marvin recalled. In the second instance Uncle Tom McKinney came from Easley where he had recently moved from Eastatoe bearing "the little casket in his single buggy" en route to McKinney Chapel where again Will Gravely read the funeral service from ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. "I remember Uncle Tom wept as he took the last look at the little doll like baby," Marvin recorded in his journal. "Aunt Blake could not come as she had just delivered the dead baby."
Growing up on the farm and around Gravely Com and Flour Mill with its gin and sawmill could have its tedious side for young boys like Horace and Marvin who from their earliest years had regular tasks to do around the place. They had no indoor toilet, and water for drinking and cooking came from the springhouse at least fifty yards from the house. Occasionally special events interrupted their sometimes-boring routines. For example, they and their four-year-old sister Eula were taken November 14, 1909 to stay with the family of Uncle Mack Gravely while their younger brother Tom was being born.
They got glimpses of the larger world when the Atlanta Constitution arrived three times a week in the mail. The family also subscribed to the Methodist weekly, The Southern Christian Advocate. Will Gravely enjoyed reading his papers to keep up with the times. But Marvin recalled that the family never celebrated Christmas until he was a teenager. The one holiday they looked forward to each spring was on Old Soldiers Day on June 3, honoring the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the ill-starred president of the Confederate States of America. The tradition had its Pickens beginnings in 1903 just as the cult of the Confederacy built around the romanticism of the Lost Cause was emerging across the South.
Marvin remembered that the family labored hard to get the cotton worked out and have other planting and hoeing done in time to get to go to town for the celebration. What was appealing to the children was to see Horace's grandfather Ballenger Gravely among the veterans marching two by two to the music of the band from the Hagood-Mauldin house on North Lewis Street to the Court House. There some dignitary of the time gave a speech and the old soldiers would let out a rebel yell to be followed by dinner on the lawn. "Nine finger John Porter sold lemonade five cents per glass and everyone using the same glass," Marvin recorded in his journal. "We did not have money so we would go behind one of the stores where a well was to get water to drink as the day was usually hot."
From his earliest years church relationships were important both for religious and social reasons to Horace and his family. Will Gravely was deeply invested in church affairs, first at Porter's Chapel as he was emerging into manhood and then as-the central lay leader at old Salem Methodist Church not far away in the Twelve Mile community. Methodist preachers on the Pickens Circuit only came once a month for regular services the third Sunday at 3 p.m. Success for such congregations depended on lay leaders who taught Sunday School, led prayer meetings and hymn singing and kept records for the circuit preacher and his presiding elder on membership, attendance and donations (including the third Sunday in September appeal for the Epworth Orphanage Methodists sponsored in Columbia). Horace's father did all these things, along with bringing wood from home on cold Sundays, playing the pump organ when no one else more accomplished was present and buying small Bible story cards as teaching aids when he conducted Sunday School. Horace's mother baked unleavened bread and his father obtained unfermented grape juice for Methodist communion services, with everyone using the common cup.
The Christian nurture which Will and Betty offered their children yielded decisions from both Horace and Marvin when they owned their salvation from God through Jesus Christ and joined Salem church on May 14, 1915. The preacher, Rev. L. W. Johnson, laid his hands on them and other boys kneeling at the altar and said "God bless my boys." Salem was not a narrowly denominational church, Marvin recollected, attracting neighbors like the Breazeale family, which included the later State Senator Harold Breazeale who with other members of that family went on to live as faithful Baptist church folks.
Both of Horace's parents valued their limited educational opportunities. We do not know how long Will Gravely studied with John Edens but he learned enough to read and write effectively and to conduct business. Betty McKinney got to do further schooling even though Thomas Newton McKinney had died when she was not quite eleven years old. He never regained good health after his service in the 41 Regiment, South Carolina Cavalry the last two years of the Civil War. Nonetheless he was a trustee for the Eastatoe school district 8 in Pickens County between 1876 and 1880. Betty McKinney probably learned her alphabet and to read at the schools her father helped to staff at McKinney Chapel, at nearby Antioch Baptist Church and other part-year schools. Her later training came at the school on Keowee near Captain R. E. Steele's house. His wife, Georgia Ann Miller Steele, was Betty's first cousin, and the couple was glad to board their kin in this way. On Sunday afternoons accompanied by her brother Tom for the trip to Keowee, Betty sat sidesaddle a riding posture she had mastered and used in competitive races as a mountain woman. They forded the river and then she stayed the next five nights with the Steeles. When Friday afternoon came around the return journey awaited her, with Tom bringing the extra horse he had brought home the previous Sunday. Thirty years later her children had closer access to schooling. Since the building was in walking distance, Horace and his siblings attended Twelve Mile School for the early grades before going to town in Pickens for high school.
The Ballenger and Naomi Gravely home and after 1910 the Will and Betty Gravely home were not only busy households embracing extended family and as many as three generations. They were also locations for relatives, neighbors and preachers to come and stay for periods of time or at least to remain for a common meal together. Horace's uncles from Texas, Ben, John and Barnett (but not Doc) came back for stays and his grandparents made one trip West on the train to see their sons and families there. A neighbor Folger Holden spent his last night with the Gravely’s before entering service for World War I but not to return, dying from a shell shot to his head the morning of November 11, 1918 before the armistice began later that day.
Not all the visits, however, were pleasant reunions and fond farewells. Marvin remembered the visits of Key and Nora Porter, first cousins whose mother Sarah Gravely Porter had died in 1900 and who were sent to Epworth Orphanage for several years. During the summer they would visit their grandparents while Will and Betty and their expanding family also lived there. Once Horace and Key were eating in Grandma Naomi's end of the house and Key hurt Horace at the table. That conflict prompted Marvin in 1993 to conclude: "I suppose we expected perfect conduct from an Epworth child." As Horace was growing up, Aunt Betsey Prince (kin on the McKinney side) would also come often in her later years. Marvin relished an early memory of her bringing "a clay pipe she kept on our mantle to smoke her home grown tobacco while she visited." In 1910 Horace's father took him, Marvin and two nieces to visit Uncle Bill Gravely at East Fork, North Carolina over one weekend. Covering ground where the first Gravelys from Virginia, John and Margaret Hensley Ballenger Gravely, settled in the 1790s, they traveled in their buggy over Gauley on the toll road. They arrived on Saturday evening, stayed through church on Sunday and took a train ride on Monday over to see the grand hotel with its luxurious lawn at Lake Toxaway.
Life at home was typical of the period for small farming families in the region. The boys wore union suit long-john underwear in the winter months and knitted socks their mother had made. Weekly baths- more frequently in spring and summer from working outdoors-occurred on Saturday nights in the number 3 tin tubs. Horace's parents never incurred debt after they mortgaged the place in 1905 and paid that off. When they had saved sufficiently, Will bought Betty a sewing machine to supplement hand sewing tasks around 1912 and he purchased a pump organ and learned to read shape notes at singing schools so that he could play it. About the same time he purchased as a kitchen stove a Majestic wood burning range. It stored hot water and enabled them to keep dishes warmed on the stove surface from one meal to the next or even from one day to the next. Betty continued to bake corn bread in the ashes of the hearth in the front room of the house and to heat up irons from fires there, and warm water, soups and stews in an iron kettle - practices she kept up until the 1940s when the fireplace was sealed and a coal stove installed for heating the house more efficiently. The entire family benefited from Betty's herbal knowledge to cure stomach ailments, colds and rashes. She collected sassafras root, snakeroot, yellow root and other plants from Eastatoe and Twelve Mile woods to stock her home remedy chest.
Horace's Uncle Tom McKinney kept giving his nieces and nephews opportunities to experience new things. He had been a Field Deputy US Marshall at the age of 21 in Walhalla, a state constable and a farmer in Eastatoe before moving to Easley in 1911 where he was chief of police and from there a rural policeman for the county. He was selected as County Supervisor in 1918 and held that job for twelve years. As an example of his close connections to his sister's family, on September 5, 1915 he came with his new T Model Ford from Easley up to Twelve Mile, bringing his wife Blake and daughter Mary (age 6) and son J. T. Jr. (age 3). It was the wedding day for Horace's other McKinney uncle, Will, who married Sonora Glazener (a school teacher at Cane Creek) at the old Salem Methodist church parsonage. Horace's Uncle Tom had not yet learned to drive so that he hired a young black man, G. B. Hagood as chauffer. It required two trips to the parsonage and two trips back for everyone in Betty Gravely's and Uncle Tom's families and the bride, groom and preacher L. W. Johnson to attend A year later Horace, Marvin, Aunt Blake, Mary and Uncle Tom (who had in the meantime learned to drive) took the 1915 T Model for the young people's first trip on the unpaved road (it was paved in 1922) to Greenville.
On January 27, 1917 Horace lost his first McKinney family member when Aunt Sonora died in childbirth, leaving his Uncle Will to struggle for his faith when he read the Bible and wept over the loss of his wife and child. The next fall Horace began the school year in Easley, boarding with Uncle Tom and Aunt Blake but his educational plans were interrupted the following spring, and they were not resumed for two and a half years. On the morning of April4, 1918 after Will Gravely and his son Marvin had planted some corn, he went to town to buy some fertilizer. As he came out Cedar Rock Street (in front of the Bell South building today) he was sitting on the edge of the wagon bed. When the wagon began rolling down into a swag pushing the mules, Horace's father pulled the lines and then fell off under the right front wheel of the wagon. It ran over his jaw, breaking it and skinning up his face. He was able to get up and walk to the Arthur Porter house where the present Pickens Savings and Loan building is today. Mrs. Porter knew Will so she sent for Johns Hopkins trained Dr. Fletcher Smith Porter who bound up his wounds and with his son-in-law brought him home about noon. He seemed to be mending for the first week but then became very sick. Mrs. Louise Arnold, a registered nurse, came from Greenville on April II to stay with him day and night until he died at 11 a.m. on the 17th. A Dr. Black from Greenville argued with Pickens' Dr. Porter about whether the jaw was broken. When Will Gravely's corpse was shaved, it was clear that it had been, but the official diagnosis for his death was Bright's disease, and perhaps pneumonia.
Will Gravely's funeral was the next afternoon at 3:00at Porter's Chapel Church. A cousin, Arthur Gravely, Sr. of Pickens, brought two Model T cars to take the family to the church while the horse drawn hearse took the body on another route. More than fifty people had been at Betty Gravely's house for a meal before the funeral. Preachers S.M. Jones, S. C. Dunlap and Wade Lewis conducted the service, and Horace's first cousins; Louise (later married Rob Welborn) and Annie (later married Floyd Durham) sang, "We will never say good-bye in heaven."
The Pickens Sentinel death notice paid tribute to Horace's father as "a prominent" and "successful farmer," who "took an active part in everything that went for the betterment of the community in which he lived, and was an ardent supporter of better schools." As a Methodist churchman, Will Gravely "was a leader for more than thirty years, and it was there that the greatest of his work was done," the account went on to say. "He liked for his friends to visit him in his home and partake of his hospitality, and he liked to help anyone in need."
With five children ages four to seventeen, Betty Gravely began her long widowhood in the spring of 1918. Her life had had hard times before, from the death of her father to the loss of her first two children: Helping her mother and her older brothers on the farm in Eastatoe, she injured her back and was laid up for a time. She nearly died from measles and pneumonia, surviving by drinking the folk remedy of sheep compost tea. At age eighteen, before she was married, her upper teeth decayed and she had to have dentures, which cost her $10 covered by her raising and selling a calf. She used those same false teeth until her death seventy-six years later!
Betty McKinney's brothers were so dependent on her that they threatened Will Gravely for his attentions to her, drawing his response, "As long as Betty lets me come all the devils in hell cannot keep me away," and he kept coming. They had first met at the Twelve Mile Camp Ground Methodists conducted from 1836 until the late 1890s. It was five miles West of Pickens on what is now Highway 183. Their relationship had to face family opposition until the end. On their wedding day in 1896 in the family named chapel no McKinney was present. Rumors circulated that Will and Tom had carried pistols to the fields to back up their opposition to the marriage of their only sister. By spring that year, however, she walked back from Twelve Mile up to the McKinney home place taking a fat pig, some quilts and other goods to her widowed mother and her brothers. Before long they joined the extended Gravely family and became close in-laws. Such ties helped Betty McKinney Gravely survive the shock of her husband's death.
The immediate concern for the family in 1918 was how to get the spring crops in. On April23 relatives and neighbors showed up to plant the cotton and corn. Major Aiken whose family had rented the Will Gravely house before 1910 came to stay with Betty and the children the first few nights, "as we were so frightened and lonesome," Marvin noted later. Uncle Will McKinney came and helped and his sister Betty hired Jim Monroe, a black farmer, to assist Horace (not yet 17) and Marvin (not yet 15) in cultivating the crops. Finally Major Aiken had to go back to his own family. Horace and Marvin went up on the hill near the house to see if he was coming any more. "He did not and we started living by ourselves from then on," Marvin remembered.
The interruption for high school for Horace lasted a little more than two years while Marvin was delayed by three. Horace and his first cousin Paul Edwin Gravely (with whom he would joke about their interesting initials, HEG and PEG) took the buggy to Pickens High in 1920-21. They boarded their mule at Henry Townes' stable on Hagood Street. On good days they drove Uncle Tom's old 1915 Model T, which he had passed on to the Gravely boys. Horace graduated in 1923 but not before besting his brother in debate. Its topic was: "Resolved: that the USA is more democratic than England." Marvin and Paul Nalley were on the American side and Artie Hughes (Marvin's future wife) and Horace on the other, both of them in the senior class. To Marvin's chagrin, Horace and Artie won, prompting him to reflect in 1995 about his own reticence as a speaker in contrast with Horace's ability to "just talk and talk in public." That difference Marvin had confirmed in a spiritual vision in which he felt called by God into the ministry. Instead of saying yes, he deferred to Horace's superior talents in his answer to God and became like his father an active Methodist layman, according to the Methodist preacher Bernard Drennan speaking in a sermon in 1983.
By 1923 Miss Betty had saved enough from farming, with tenant help and with some modest stock investments in the Pickens Mill, to offer Horace the chance to go to college, en route to his career in the Methodist ministry. He had experienced a "clear call and definite decision to the ministry in 1922," a later Methodist conference biographical directory reported. That event occurred the same year his 93-year-old grandfather Ballenger died on January 25 at the home of Uncle Mack and Aunt Mag (Margaret Kelly) Gravely. "Squire" John L. Gravely, who lived at and ran the post office and a store at Sunnydale in the Holly Springs community where he was an active Baptist, paid tribute to L. B. Gravely. Recording deaths in the back of his account book, cousin John wrote: "he was a Confederate soldier-he joined the Methodist Church at the age of 16 and lived 77 years a Christian."
After Ballenger's death, only his widow Naomi Gravely and Mary Emma lissa Alexander McKinney were left of Horace's grandparents. Naomi lived almost three more years, dying in November 1924 at her son's house where the aged couple had lived since 1920. Horace's Grandma McKinney, whose in-laws John and Elizabeth Robertson McKinney had given the land for the first McKinney Chapel Church, lived for a time with son Tom in Easley and then in Eastatoe with son Will. Grandma McKinney died in May 1924 with burial at McKinney Chapel.
By then within the Methodist denominational system Horace had obtained his license to exhort on June 4, 1923. That was a practice of improving the points of a sermon after the preacher had finished. He obtained his license to preach the next April in his first year as a student at Wofford College. When he matriculated in the fall of 1923, he joined four other young men from Pickens County.
Wofford College in 1923 was a small church related college for men, with a student body of 446 (22 special students) and a faculty of eighteen professors, three instructors and two other officers. In the years before theological seminary training was expected as part of the professionalization of Christian ministry, colleges like Wofford trained men for their pastorates. Then the Methodist conferences took the preachers, who were considered on trial for their first two years, through a prescribed course of study supervised by a committee of senior ministers and conducted much like correspondence schools did in that time.
In Horace Gravely's first year, he lived on campus at Carlisle Hall but at some point in the year he moved to a boarding house off campus at 334 Cleveland Street. Unknowingly preparing himself for his future role in the early part of World War II, he took military science and enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Ironically, in light of his later death caused by a German U-boat submarine, his Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday morning class was in the study of the German language. In his first year he was also enrolled in Greek, English, Bible, Mathematics and English Literature (taught by the President, Henry Nelson Snyder). For daily chapel services he was assigned seat 6 in. the Left Middle Row in the auditorium of Old Main Building.
In his first three years Horace was active in the Christian Fellowship Club. He belonged in his junior and senior years to the Snyder Literary Society, earned distinction in scholarship for his junior year and held a position in the YMCA Cabinet when he was in the senior class. One of the activities of the Christian Fellowship Club was to visit the Spartanburg jail on Sundays. In the fall of 1925 he went on such a pastoral visit and it earned a story in the college newspaper. Among his classmates at Wofford were future friends and colleagues in the ministry, Melvin Medlock, Melvin Derrick and Bernard Drennan. He also knew Joe Henry Maw (who became a missionary to the Belgian Congo), Charles Nesbitt (who returned to Wofford for a long career as professor of religion) and Albert Outler (who became a great scholar on John Wesley and taught at Duke and Southern Methodist Universities). His college teachers included religion professor Dr. A.M. Trawick who had a reputation as a southern social gospel leader, Dr. Marvin Rast later to be editor of the Southern Christian Advocate and president of Lander College and Dr. D. D. Wallace the eminent historian. Dr. C. C. Norton, also on the faculty in Sociology, entertained generations of Wofford students with his annual presentation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Norton would serve as interim minister at Grace Methodist Church in Pickens during World War II when its minister, John Hipp went into the chaplaincy but that was after Horace had himself died in service.
Maintaining close ties with family back home, Horace wrote about his life at college to his mother and siblings. One letter on the occasion of Mother's Day in 1925 survives in which, besides sending Betty Gravely a poem, shares information on the weather, the approach of the end of classes in a week and his plans for that Sunday evening's church. Life on the farm in Pickens County was never too far from his mind, as he commented: "Guess you all got the bottoms planted."
During two of his summers in college Horace taught school, as his brother Marvin and cousin Paul had done in Pickens County even before high school graduation. Building on this experience Horace spent his first year after finishing Wofford as Superintendent of West Springs Grammar and High School in Union County, perhaps to pay off some college expenses and certainly to give him and his new bride, Katherine Amanda Carter a good first year of marriage in her native county.
Surviving family members do not recollect how Horace and Kate met but John's wife Carolyn remembers her mother-in-law saying that they dated only three weeks before they were engaged. So it was love at first sight for both parties. Kate was two years older than he and a graduate of Lander College, then a church college under the auspices of the Upper South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. There she had excelled, becoming president of the student body her final year and launching her own church vocation by preparing to train as a missionary. She became a student at Scarritt College in Nashville, but her plans were interrupted by a breast cancer scare that forced her to return home and undergo surgery. When Horace graduated, he signed his senior yearbook, The Bohemian, to Kate and that August, on his mother's fifty-third birthday, they were married at 8 a.m. in Lockhart Methodist Church by Rev. W. A. Ducworth. Horace wrote in his Wofford Bible (given at graduation) that it was "a beautiful day." After breakfast in Union, they visited family in West Springs and Pickens, and then went to stay with friends in Gilbert near Columbia for two days before making a proper wedding trip to Charleston.
The picture of Horace in his Wofford annual portrayed a handsome young man who was about five feet ten and weighed about 136 pounds and who wore round scholarly looking glasses. He chose for his motto a phrase suggestive of the Latin phrase on the Gravely family coat-of-arms; "I reverence the past because it has grown into the present, and the present because it contains the future." His senior class prophecy predicted that Horace would not be able to come to class meetings because he would be at Methodist annual conference.
His classmates wrote of him: "Horace, by his unusual personality, has made an indelible impression upon his classmates that will remain long after the old bell has called the last laggard to the classroom." Praising his "unusually good disposition" and tendency not even to complain, the tribute acknowledged that he was nonetheless "human" with a willingness "to help the other fellow" and to make and keep friends. Remarking on his devotion to his studies which prevented him from being swept off his feet romantically, the yearbook editors revealed that they knew of his future commitment to Kate Carter: "Now, however, the goal of college life has been reached, and it is reported that an arrow [of Cupid] has hit the mark." They concluded that Horace, by entering the Methodist ministry, was answering the call from Matthew 28, predicting that he would be "a great success."
Horace Gravely had answered his initial call and had exercised his license to preach (but not to marry or celebrate the sacraments -practices reserved for ordained ministers), but he did not begin his formal ministry in the Upper South Carolina Conference until November 1928 when he was admitted on trial. Two years later he was ordained deacon and admitted into full connection to the conference, and then in 1932 he became an elder.
Over the course of the dozen years, he served six appointments, always with several congregations on the charge except for one occasion. Beginning three years' service at two mill villages Drayton and Beaumont in Spartanburg county in the '28- '29 conference year (which ran from November to November), he earned $100 a month salary. His congregants remodeled the Drayton church costing $3000 by adding five Sunday School rooms and a new heating plant. His two Sunday Schools had 367 to 390 attendees and the church membership grew from 224 to 331 but then leveled off at 301 but that included many removals perhaps affected by the initial impact of the Stock Market crash of 1929. He succeeded in adding 181 persons during the three years. Youth in Epworth Leagues numbered between 25 and 38. One Women's Society of Christian Service group was added to the pre-existing one at the other church during his ministry. Horace and Kate had two children in this pastoral charge. Martha Frances was born in March 1929 and Horace Edward, Jr. in October 1931, both at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg. As parsonages went for preachers of that time, this first home was quite accommodating, valued at $1600.
A second assignment closer to home in the next county to Pickens came at a missionary charge in Salem for the 1931-32, '32- '33 and '33- '34 conference years. Here he made a strong impression on the Oconee county community. On one occasion during a successful gubernatorial campaign in 1934 Wofford graduate, Olin D. Johnston, spent the night with the Gravelys in the Methodist parsonage. The politician's presence attracted curiosity seekers and mountain folk who just wanted to shake Johnston's hand or give him some homespun advice. One of the church members, James Oldridge Cannon whose daughter Martha later married Horace's grandnephew, Roger Gravely, recalled that he had the "finest voice of a preacher I ever heard." Pastoral responsibilities increased for Horace in these mountain communities going through the first years of the Great Depression. Horace served Fairview, Gap Hill, Old Pickens, Whitmire's and Salem, which together could never cover his $500 yearly salary. The conference added a $600 annual supplement to sustain him. Whatever was lacking in cash, however, was often made up by "poundings" of the preacher and his family-locally grown produce, eggs and meat. And Horace could always count of being fully supplied on visits over to Twelve Mile where his mother's smokehouse and pantry would provide further food. However hard the times were, the family never went hungry.
The Salem parsonage valued at $800 in 1931 was added to, bringing the value up to $1100 but incurring a $190 debt which increased to $215 by 1934 as interest accrued beyond the ability to pay of the congregations. Their combined memberships were between 242 at the end of his time down from 307 his first year due to removing one of the churches from the charge and despite the fact that he added 43 new members in the three years. Rarely could such churches afford insurance on their buildings or on the parsonage, and they were unable to pay more than 20% of the conference apportionments in the Methodist system of connectionalism, to cover retired preachers' needs, salaries for the bishop and the presiding elders, mission and church extension projects, support for the Epworth Orphanage and the like.
Horace and Kate and their two children moved in 1934 downstate to the Leesville Circuit, which posed another kind of challenge. Here five congregations (Clyde, Concord, Middleburg, Nazareth and Rehoboth) required his attention, numbering 661 members (including eleven new members) by the time he left after just one year. Again conference askings of $647 were met by only $154 and the churches raised only two thirds of the $1125 annual salary (747). The parsonage was valued at only $400.
Making their second move in two years the Gravelys at annual conference in 1935 were assigned to Bethel Church in Rock Hill- his first charge to meet all conference obligations including his $725 annual salary (raised to 800 his last year) and the only time in his ministry he had a single congregation. It numbered, with 34 additions during the two years between 420 and 447. It had two active Women's Societies composed of 33 to 37 members, which had their own fund-raising and mission projects. Children and youth made up the majority of the Sunday School attendance. Bethel had the finest building Horace had preached in, but the parsonage was minimally adequate-valued at $300. In it a third child was to join the family when John Willoughby (the second name coming from Horace's father's and great uncle's names) was born March 20, 1936 at St. Philip's Hospital. Ten weeks earlier Horace wrote to congratulate his Uncle Mack on turning seventy, enclosing in the letter that survives a Gravely coat of arms, its explanation and an incomplete sketch of the family history.
The fifth pastoral charge that Horace served brought him again to the upcountry in Oconee County nearer his mother, brothers and sisters. From 1937 to 1940 he served the Walhalla Circuit, involving four churches initially-Bethel, Double Springs, Monaghan, Zion-and later his earlier congregation at Fairview. He added 153 members during that time, but a large part of the total was the addition of Fairview to the circuit list. The parsonage here was the lowest in value dropping from $500 in 1937 to $100 in 1939. Nonetheless, Horace's ministry saw Women's Society growth from one with eight members to four with forty-four, and Sunday Schools from four with 146 attendees to six with 298 in 1939 (dropping back to 267 the final year). Membership ranged between 262 up to 375 and then leveled off at 344 and 339.
Horace's first son, Horace Jr., remembers not only having a cow and chickens in the Walhalla appointment but also their father raising pigeons to eat. The younger son John recalled the Walhalla Circuit parsonage on Lucas Street down below the church, which sat on the comer. There their mother had her first Maytag wringer washer. John also recollects one rambunctious Halloween when neighborhood children turned over furniture on the parsonage porch, expecting a return visit after dark. Their father putting aside ministerial dignity, hid behind one of the chairs with a bucket of water. When the teenagers returned, he gave them a soaking. Horace enjoyed turning the trick or treat on the children even if they did not. John also had his head stitched by Dr. J. P. (Jake) Booker when a nail landed in the top of his head from his father's attempt to repair the gate on the pasture fence. The parsonage family had such good relationships in Walhalla that Kate and the family would end up settling there after Horace's death.
In November 1940 Horace's final South Carolina appointment sent him to Belton, the Latimer Memorial Church and two rural congregations, Ebenezer and Oak Hill. In his fifteen months there he added thirty-three new members to a membership, which grew to 459. The parsonage in the town was the finest the Gravelys had known, valued at $4200. And the Latimer Memorial building was the best Horace had worked in since Rock Hill. He was involved immediately with an expansion project, which was completed in July 1942 after he had been called into the chaplaincy the previous March. The structure was brick-veneered, the interior completely renovated with hardwood floors, new pews, carpets and lights installed and the seating capacity increased.
Even with the quality of the parsonage and the congregation's commitment to remodel the church, it was still useful to have a cow, as Horace Jr. recalls. His father never got country life out of his veins. Among John's early memories is the time his sister rode her bicycle down a hill in Belton, hitting a spot of loose gravel and wrecking the bike while skinning her knee badly. It was also during his Belton appointment that Horace’s oldest McKinney uncle, Will, died in March 1941leaving his second wife Neta, and three children, Willie, Edward and Polly.
Just two months after Pearl Harbor Horace, who had been a member of the Officers' Reserve Corps and who had been a pastor for Civilian Conservation Corpsmen during the New Deal, was ordered to report for active duty in the U.S. Army on March 7, 1942. His sister Frances, a schoolteacher in Pickens first heard of the order on February 5, and she noted in her diary the next day, "We continue to grieve Horace going to Little Rock." The following night she went to town to find out more information, which would be the date a year later when her brother would lose his life. On Sunday February 8 Betty Gravely, her daughter Frances and fiancé Ernest Winchester, her granddaughter Betty Durham and her niece, Polly McKinney drove to Belton to visit Horace and his family. Two days later the initial callup date was set for February 21 but then was delayed.
There are no notations in Horace's Cokesbury Daily Suggester for 1942 about this development, except for some financial calculations comparing chaplain's pay at the Lieutenant rank and at the Captain's rank. Otherwise his church meetings and pastoral duties seem routine until March 7 where an entry occurs with the note, "Atlanta" followed eight days later by his army vaccinations and shots for tetanus and yellow fever. Before leaving Belton he did meet with Baptist pastor Ed Rouse, a close friend and later president of Anderson College. By the end of the month the Southern Christian Advocate reported that he had arrived at his station, Camp Robinson, and that the family was living in a rented apartment in Little Rock, identified three weeks later as at 612 North Walnut. Writing to the editor of the conference weekly, he mentioned that he commuted the nine miles several times a week, staying sometimes at the Camp and at other times in town. "I especially like my personal contacts with the boys," he wrote. "Many of them need a friend to whom they can talk freely. I am trying to be that kind of a friend. With all its likeable features we hold that South Carolina far exceeds anything we have seen! We hope the war will soon be over so that we can all get back to our homes, and help build a world in which war will not be possible."
On May 4, Horace sent a card to Betty Gravely in time for Mother's Day, signing it "Her Soldier Boy and Family 'way out in Arkansas."' In the latter part of the month he wrote to her brother Tom and wife Blake in Easley in reply to their letter of April 9. He reported that he had "been especially busy," since one of the chaplains had been transferred leaving him with 2000 men to look after. His duties involved three services on Sunday, and he was required to stay at the Camp all through the week until11 p.m. nightly. He was pleased that Martha had made the honor roll at school and that Horace Jr. was succeeding as well. He and John, Horace delighted in sharing, were "quite interested in the soldiers and the soldiers like them." He began the practice, which John and Horace, Jr. remember today, of having the two boys salute back when he, as an officer, was saluted by the troops. His preference was to speak to each soldier with a smile. Sharing a long-standing interest in McKinney and Gravely family history, he told his uncle and aunt that he was making contacts through the service and in Arkansas with McKinney relatives. His sons had also found a soldier the Easley relatives knew from their town. Sending greetings to Tom's and Blake's daughter who lived in Liberty, he exclaimed: "Tell Mary [McKinney Ware] she should hear "my" choir sing; 50 men made up of Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons! They are good though. I have several Indians who come to my services. Some Mexicans too. Last week we had a Chinese boy to help clean up the Chapel. We have all kinds."
At Camp Robinson the chaplain let his sons accompany him for early morning rounds to the mess halls and to stay overnight at the chapel. He once married a couple on the telephone to meet their needs in wartime to wed before the new husband was shipped out. Once a soldier committed suicide in the chapel by drinking iodine and he had to share the responsibility of comforting the victim's family. Another time he had to go to the balcony of the chapel to discipline his two sons who were enjoying reading a comic book during services.
Come September 1942 he was continuing his correspondence with the McKinneys in Easley, updating them on his genealogical searches and reporting that his mother had written about Aunt Blake's skill in canning fresh vegetables during the summer. He mentioned that he and the family had gone down to Texas to visit the Collin McKinney house and monument in the town named for him and to see some Gravely kin in the Dallas metropolitan area. The boys John and Horace Jr. remember vividly this trip. John was fascinated with rain barrels for collecting water and the practice of washing hands from a water pitcher. Horace Jr. had a slight heat stroke during the visit, forcing him into bed for a week or more.
The South Carolina family network continued to support their loved ones. Brother Marvin wrote regularly, and Aunt Blake surprised Horace for his forty-first birthday by knitting him a sweater and mailing it out to Little Rock. Pickens County friends had dined with the family when Elizabeth Few, Edna Few Looper and her husband's sister Mildred were visiting Edna's husband at Camp Robinson. John remembers that the same interfaith world of the army Horace had written about earlier came home on occasion when Kate cooked dinners in their apartment for the Jewish and Catholic chaplains at the Camp.
On December 8 new orders were cut for First Lieutenant Gravely to send him to Boston for Chaplaincy School and for being shipped out later in the winter. This move uprooted the family again, as Horace took everyone to Pickens, had the conference make Grace Church his charge conference while in the military, and squeezed in a quick visit with Kate and Martha to see friends at Belton and his former church with its remodeling completed. A family gathering at his mother's house on the December Sunday when he left by train from Easley was the occasion for everyone to line up for their goodbyes. His niece Betty Durham remembers accompanying Kate, the children and Uncle Tom and Aunt Blake McKinney on the ride to see him off to Boston. Horace, Jr. recalls that Uncle Tom and Aunt Blake gave Horace the wrist watch which had belonged to their late son, J. T., Jr. who died on July 4, 1936 just after having graduated from Clemson College. He left behind his pocketwatch and his Wofford ring for his son John, and gave him, Martha and Horace, Jr. a dime.
During his training at Camp Miles Standish at Harvard University he underwent 240 hours of specialized instruction. There he came to know, besides the famous Four Chaplains, a Catholic priest Father James M. Liston who had earlier served at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina. According to a story told afterwards by Rabbi David Max Eichhorn, both Rabbi Alexander Goode (one of the Four Chaplains) and Liston had premonitions that their ships were not going to make it. "Jimmy [Liston] told me he had contributed $50 to a Boston church for masses to be said for the repose of his soul if he should be lost at sea." Father Liston's fears were not without some basis, given the success of the German U-boats in the North Atlantic in the fall of 1942. Horace may not have known about Liston's anxiety, but he had made a firm impression on his colleagues by retaining his Methodist and family ethic of refraining from consuming alcohol as other chaplains did routinely.
Kate was able to visit her husband one final time through the financial assistance of Uncle Tom McKinney, who, after having been chief of police in Easley a second time, had retired at sixty to run a service station on the main street of town. Horace spoke by phone with each of the children before he departed, Horace Jr. recollects, and he sent back by their mother a whistle for each of them. He and Kate had developed a code for her to decipher any correspondence he would be able to send from locations, which could not be directly disclosed due to military secrecy. The code, recorded in his Daily Suggester for 1942 left behind for his wife, would indicate by the first word of the first sentence which country or part of the world he was in. The letter E, for example, in a phrase like "Enjoyed trip" would stand for England. The locations included Iceland, Greenland, Russia, Alaska, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Hawaii, Africa, Australia, Brazil (the code was Bishop Cyrus Dawsey from South Carolina), Belgian Congo (the code was his Wofford classmate and missionary Joe Maw). He also added "John C" for combat, "John H" for Hospital, "Glad Ralph is ok" for ok and "Bad" for not ok. The imaginative scheme, tragically, would not be put into use. All of Kate's letters written to him after he was shipped out were returned from the Army Post Office.
Chaplain Gravely's ship, USS Henry Mallory, was assigned to Convoy SC-118 headed for Iceland to relieve some of the American forces there dating back to the summer of 1941. Set to leave New York on January 24, 1943, the Mallory had been chartered by The Navy from the Clyde Mallory line as a troop transport, and its origins dated back to 1916. Active in World War I it was a vessel of 6442 tons with gross tonnage at 10660. It had a crew of76 Americans, one Canadian, one Russian, one Filipino and two Puerto Ricans-a lot unfortunately without a great deal of training for disasters. A Navy Armed Guard crew of 34 men was on board, and there were 72 Marines, 173 other Navy personnel, 2 civilians and 136 Army officers and men, including the South Carolina native, Horace Gravely. But for a number of ill-fated incidents, as John M. Waters, Jr. detailed in his authoritative book, Bloody Winter, the Mallory would have completed its mission unharmed and undamaged despite the harsh weather and the ongoing U-boat threat. To begin with, the Mallory's assignment to a slow moving convoy was questionable. Capable of going 14 knots, the SC-118 convoy usually puttered along at half that speed. If it had been assigned to a faster HX convoy, perhaps its fate would have been changed.
Secondly, when German U-boats took out three ships from HX-224 on February 2, a commander of another U-boat picked up an American survivor who gave classified information about the location and timing of the slower SC-118 convoy, two days to the West.
Thirdly, there were two incidents on merchant vessels, one during the day February 3 and another later that night, when careless seamen fired snowflake rockets by mistake giving lighted displays as far as twenty miles away. All 71 ships in the convoy saw the flares, as did U-187, which copied the information to the German command before being seen, attacked and captured by British and American ships.
In the fourth place, the Mallory's own commander, "Horace Rudolph Weaver, kept placing the vessel in jeopardy. It was his first ship to command, and again and again other ships in the convoy noticed that the Mallory was straggling behind especially when the convoy executed a course change. The Mallory's commander likewise failed to execute zigzag patterns while straggling. Its power was sufficient to do that and still keep up with the convoy and assist in its own defense against detection.
In addition, difficulties in communication between the convoy's commander and the other ships contributed to the Mallory's vulnerability. The convoy once split into two groups, but the order was interrupted by radio transmission difficulties when issued by British Commander F. B. Proudfoot on the HMS Vanessa. As rescue ships for the convoy came under attack and were sunk, Proudfoot's escorts (from France, the US and Britain) had to do double duty-to guard the convoy, occasionally going far a field to send down depth charges on the German subs, and to pick up survivors when possible after vessels in the convoy were sunk.
The convoy was within the fly zone of Iceland, so that on clear days it could count on RAP air support in controlling the 20 U-boats bent on crippling the Allied ships. As February 7th approached, the U-boat command had only eleven vessels fit to operate and contact had been lost. But at 0213 (GMT) U-402, with its ace commander Siegfried F. von Forstner back in service for the first time since the previous November, found SC-118 again with its entire starboard side covering a quarter of the ships undefended. Commander Proudfoot had failed to replace an escort on that side when he sent the Coast Guard Cutter Bibb over to follow up on a signal to the south of the convoy. Forstner seized his opportunity, hitting first a small freighter rescue ship Toward, the American tanker R. E. Hopkins and an hour or so later the big tanker Daghild and still later another freighter Afrika at 0536. Absorbing one other loss, the B2 escort unit regained control, but no one had yet covered the need for destroyers astern of the convoy and there the Mallory traveling at 7.5 knots speed would become the next victim for Forstner's U-402.
On board the Mallory, there had been an alert at 0330 and "everyone was warned to remain dressed and to standby their bunks with their life jackets," a later Coast Guard investigation signed by Commander K. 0. A. Zittel concluded. "There was never any complete all clear given to this particular alert." The lookouts were relieved at 0600, and that change with the accompanying need to adjust to the reduced visibility outdoors may have explained why no one saw the torpedo coming at a 90 degree angle from the U-boat 900 yards away in the dark. At 0638 Forstner's single torpedo crashed into the No.3 hold on the starboard side of the Mallory, upending the sick bay, taking out lifeboat No. 9 and several liferafts, blowing off No.4 hatch and sending the Marines' compartments crashing down on each other. The refrigerator plant was damaged, with its ammonia and smoke adding to the crisis. But there was no general fire or apparent radio damage and the ship seemed secure. Based on interviews with survivors, the investigators under Zittel stated:
“Right after being hit the Mallory did not list appreciatively nor did she appear to settle in any way. It was firmly believed that the ship would stay afloat a few hours and all hands were told not to abandon ship immediately. It is believed that the engines stopped immediately but all lights stayed on. It was not definitely know[n] whether the Mallory fired any flares or rockets or if any report was made by radio.”
From the bridge, no general alarm was ever sounded. The explosion awakened most personnel though some men initially slept through it. Confusion and fright took over for the men trapped in compartments until they got freed, but otherwise at first "there was no great panic" according to the report afterwards. On the starboard side, which was experiencing the brunt of the stormy weather, boats No. 1 and 3 capsized, and No. 7 sank. Only boat No. 5 got away fully loaded but it was soon swamped with water forcing the men to bail with anything they could use. On the port side, boats No. 6 and 8 got away, but No.2 and 4 capsized when lowering, the former filled with injured men. The fate of No. 10 boat was unclear when the Coast Guard investigators wrote their report a week later. Even the boats that escaped were not fully loaded by the crew, which manned them. "Loss of boats may be attributed to insufficient handling and general panic among crew members, who were responsible for proper operation," three survivors claimed in their certified testimony.
How many liferafts or "doughnuts" got away was also undetermined. "Many of the personnel [on them] got away safely," the investigation stated. But in some cases "the men knew nothing about cutting the lashings so as to lower the floor, and as a result such 'doughtnuts' were capsized frequently." Others were fastened to the ship, and it proved impossible to cut the lines. Thus, when the Mallory sank at 55 degrees 16' N, and 26 degrees 15' W there were still unused liferafts attached to the ship.
Only 175 of the 498 aboard got away in boats and a few others on rafts but no swimmers survived in the fifty-degree water. About a half hour after the explosion, the Mallory went down taking its captain to his death along with the other victims. The ship was carrying 610 sacks of mail, which were not saved. At the end personnel crowded on the bow responding to the rising of the ship's stern, some of them jumped as far out from the sinking vessel as possible. After the ship went under, "capsized boats, liferafts, and odd debris" floated all around those who survived. Waters soberly concluded that many of those in the water lasted perhaps a few minutes, and if fully clothed somewhat longer. Within a half hour an eerie silence fell over the scene.
The convoy was now fifteen miles away. Its commander did not know the Mallory had been sunk. In retrospect, Waters concluded, most of the people on board could have been saved. Twenty minutes after the hit, an escort vessel- probably the destroyer Schenck-was seen less than two miles away by men on the sinking ship. Ten minutes earlier Commander Proudfoot had cancelled its orders and asked it to return to the convoy. The Schenck's skipper saw the lights of the Mallory and started toward the ship, asking permission to proceed and pick up survivors. The convoy's commander denied the request. He expected that the Lobelia, then thirty miles astern of the convoy and fully occupied for the next twenty hours, would pick them up.
At 1000 with dawn still an hour away, nearly four hours after the original U-boat hit, the Bibb sighted the Mallory's first survivors. Only then did Vanessa learn that the Mallory was no more. Commander Roy Raney on the Bibb put his US ship into rescue operations and 205 men were saved though three died on board afterwards. Until noon, almost six hours after the attack, the Bibb worked alone. Finally the Ingham joined the search for survivors about 1300 after coming across another sinking by Forstner 35 minutes after the Mallory was hit, which was the Greek ship Kalliopi. The Bibb rescued the most passengers but the Ingham also picked up 22 including two who died on board after being rescued. The two boats rejoined the convoy but not before narrowly missing another encounter with Forstner's U-402 after he had his seventh kill in less than 24 hours, the Newton Ash just after midnight on February 8. The next day the Ingham, the Bibb, the Schenck and seven merchant vessels made the turn for Iceland- the original targeted port for the Mallory- dropping anchor there on February 15 after surviving a hurricane en route.
What U-402 narrowly escaped in February came back to haunt its commander. The following October 13, with the Bibb and the Ingham just ahead of Forstner several hundred miles north of the Azores, the sub had its final encounter. A TBF plane from the escort carrier USS Card with a homing torpedo struck U-402 a hundred feet into its dive, and scored the fatal hit. The German commander who came from a professional military background in his family and who regularly led his crew of fifty men in Christian prayer died with them in the same ocean his and other U Boats had dominated in the early period of the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Gravely family had only one eyewitness communication about what Chaplain Gravely was doing when the Mallory came under fire and was sunk. His loss of life was almost immediately associated with the heroism of the famous Four Chaplains who went down on the Dorchester four days earlier, en route to Greenland. At Camp Miles Standish Horace had met Rabbi Alexander Goode, Father John P. Washington, Reverend George L. Fox (a Methodist) and Reverend Clark V. Poling, son of the publisher of The Christian Herald magazine. Their giving up their places in lifeboats to soldiers, holding hands while saying The Lord's Prayer and going down with the ship along with 671 other victims formed a legendary example of sacrifice, heroism and courage.
The story of the Four Chaplains cemented the mid twentieth-century national consensus that the United States was no longer a Protestant country, but that each of the three biblically based religions was legitimately American. The understandable attention given to them has taken the form of monuments, The Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, and The Immortal Chaplains Foundation created in their honor. What has been overlooked is that the SC-118 convoy on February 7 lost a total of five chaplains on the Mallory that day. Besides Gravely and Liston, First Lieutenants, Captains Ernest W. MacDonald and David H. Youngdahl, and another First Lieutenant Valmore George “Father Bud” Savignac also perished in what was probably the largest loss of chaplains during one day of combat in the entire war.
The last person to see Horace Gravely alive, unless there are yet to be found from the survivors on board the Bibb and the Ingham with additional information, was a chaplain colleague who survived. Father Whelan wrote to Marvin Gravely on August 16, 1943 from the Office of the Catholic Chaplain with the 327th Station Hospital. The priest reported that Horace was in the cabin next to his and that they knew each other quite well since they spent three weeks training at Camp Miles Standish. Stating that Horace was not among the three groups who were saved, Father Whelan wrote; “ The last time I saw him was when he was heading for a boat. Due to the roughness of the sea and storm in the black night only two boats got away without being turned over in the sea. He was not in either of these two boats I know." The. Chaplain went on to confess "I can tell you no more for I am not permitted to do so," adding "He was a good man and fine Christian gentleman and I say this with all my heart and soul."
The notice that Horace was missing in action came first to his brother Marvin, who went by to get his pastor and Horace's good friend from Wofford days, Bernard S. Drennan, before going over to the Bivens Street apartment in Pickens where Kate and the three children were and then up to Twelve Mile to tell Betty Gravely the sad news. Congressman Butler Hare's telegram reported "no details available" but that Mrs. Gravely would receive a full report from the War Department when additional information emerged. The Chief of Chaplains William R. Arnold telegraphed her on February 25 at 9 p.m. regretting that no further information was forthcoming, but added words that symbolized the harsh reality behind them: "Accept my deepest sympathy and may God strengthen you in this hour." Holding out hope, she wrote to Arnold on February 26, referring to a letter she had received from Horace on January 21. On March 3, the Chief's assistant Herman Heuer further fanned that hope by stating that if she had not received a card saying he had arrived safely, he might be like others "who have been reported as missing in action" only to be located "after a considerable lapse of time." The next day's Southern Christian Advocate reported "Chaplain Gravely Missing." Its assistant editor L. D. Hamer recollected his successful pastorate at Belton, sharing a report from a South Carolina soldier at Camp Robinson on "the good times he had with Chaplain Gravely as they hiked through the hills of Arkansas" and concluding with the hope "that further news may be forthcoming which will bring good tidings that he is safe." A week later The Advocate reprinted an editorial from The Easley Progress, which spoke more frankly "of the loss of a young Pickens county man of great character and promise."
A letter from Arnold three weeks afterwards confirmed that Horace was still "being carried on the records of the War Department as 'missing at sea in the North Atlantic.'" The same sentiment prevailed two months later when Arnold, responding to Kate's letter of May 30, wrote: "As long as the War Department does not inform us that your husband is dead, we have reason to believe and hope that someday he may be located." By July 6, her concern had shifted to whether he might have been promoted as promised before he left, since his rank would have some bearing on whatever military assistance she might receive as a widow and mother of three children. Arnold's reply of July 13 dashed her hopes that the promotion to Captain had occurred, while saying "it would be impossible for your husband to be promoted while reported as missing." She wrote back on July 16 asking how he could be only at the grade of First Lieutenant, given his age, but Arnold six days later confirmed that that was possible up to the _age of 45 and restated that if a promotion that been recommended, there may have been no vacancy in the Eighth Service Command allotments and that no positive recommendation ever made it to the Adjutant General's office.
Four days later Major General J. A. Ulio, the Adjutant General, wrote to Kate but not about the issue of the promotion, but to confirm his earlier telegram of July 24. After nearly six months of waiting, the official word came that Horace "was killed in action on 7 February 1943." He apologized for the delay in notifying her, but cited the necessity to inquire extensively in order "to substantiate the fact of death." A short summary of the Mallory's experience, without mentioning the name of the ship, of being attacked "shortly after midnight [Eastern time?] by an enemy submarine."
While this agonizing experience was unfolding for Kate, extended family, the Federal Bureau of investigation interviewed her because of local rumors that the German born physician in town who cared for her and her children might have been a spy for the enemy, passing on information about her husband's military activities. Given the secrecy of the US military, the rumors circulating about Dr. Fuehrer, (his family name itself suggested the Nazi enemy) were probably more paranoia than reality, but they gave a stark sense of how unsafe the world was in such a time of war.
Meanwhile responses to the news of Horace's status were beginning to flow in. Fellow Chaplains at Camp Robinson sent to The Southern Christian Advocate in April an affectionate tribute "to the dear wife and companion, who shared so fully the loving ministry of so excellent a workman of God." Reflecting both on "the uncertainty of [Horace's] safety and the possibility of his on-going," they summarized "a three-fold splendor in his charming life" as "His Innate Capacity for Noble Living," "His Deep Capacity for Love" and "His Rich Capacity for Faith." They quoted a story about the Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks, of whom it was said "every time I look at you, I think of God," and applied the same sentiment to Horace, saying "Ah, there walked with us here at Camp Robinson such a man." They added in their second point: "Here was a lover of all men, ever aware of the needs of all." And they concluded: "His dear life was shot through with faith- it was an unbroken prayer pointing to the heart of God for the solution of all human problems."
Two months later The Advocate printed a letter from Sergeant Rufus M. Rowe of Spartanburg, stationed at the time in Sarasota, Florida, offering his tribute to Chaplain Gravely. One of the first soldiers at Camp Robinson, Rowe found Horace to be a model chaplain "as a regular fellow to all the soldiers in camp. He was one of the boys in all phases of army life," he continued. “He visited in the tents with the fellows, he ate in the mess hall with the boys, he went on hikes with them, he was ever ready to share in their parties around the campfire, and above all he was ever ready to hear the problems of the home-sick soldiers and to aid in ironing out their little problems with the commanding officer… He invited the men out into his home for fellowship and home-cooked food.”
Six issues later the conference paper confirmed what the family had been told of Horace's death in February and added the customary obituary with its own tribute about his ministry. "His ministerial record was one of ceaseless activity. He had a grip on his people, which was beautiful to behold. He was a beloved shepherd, an excellent pastor, and a splendid minister of the Word. His service was marked by spiritual and physical up building of his churches." In its August 26 issue The Advocate spread a full-page picture of Chaplain Gravely in uniform.
Back in his home county, preparations were underway for a memorial service, which was held on Sunday afternoon, September 19 at Grace Church in Pickens. It was presided over by Horace's last district superintendent, Rev. L. E. Wiggins, who would later pen a memorial entry in the Upper South Carolina Methodist Conference minutes for 1943. Rev. Wade Lewis, pastor in Piedmont and close friend since boyhood and who had conducted Will Gravely's funeral twenty-five years earlier, recollected Horace's upbringing and his contributions as a Christian and as a clergyman. E. J. Boswell, superintendent of the Belton Mills and member of Horace's congregation at Latimer Memorial, recalled his last pastorate, as did Rev. J. E. Rouse of the First Baptist Church in Belton. R. T. Hallum, Jr. of Pickens followed with a Masonic tribute. Wiggins, who had opened the service with reading from John 14, shared the resolutions sent to Kate by the chaplains at Camp Robinson. The congregation sang "It Singeth Low in Every Heart" at the beginning and "Servant of God, Well Done" at the end of the service. Grace's pastor John Hipp prayed the pastoral prayer, and after the benediction a Private Ostrander of the Greenville Air Base sounded taps.
Remaining in Pickens for a time where she taught school briefly, Kate moved from the Bivens Street apartment to a house on Catherine Street, which still stands today. All four of the family members joined Grace Methodist Church in October 1943 where they were embraced in a caring community over the next two years. The children went to the Pickens schools and she had the support of the Gravely and McKinney extended families and the presence of her own large family circle of eight sisters and one brother. One sister, Rosalie King, came to stay in Pickens while her husband "Dal" was in military service. Kate's nephew Alvin Gravely, soon to enter the Navy at age 17, drove her on errands and down to Belton to visit old friends. One brother-in-law, Marvin, failed in his effort to teach her to drive the 1940 Ford available to her. Once she nearly ran the car off the bank on Bivens Street trying to park it in the garage. Another brother-in-law Ernest Winchester, skilled at making church pews and home furniture, made her a dining room table to match the dining hutch that Kate had bought from Mrs. Pearl McFall in town. By the end of the war she had accepted a job as switchboard operator for Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. She traveled by bus to the new position taking John and Horace, Jr. with her. Martha remained in Walhalla with the Holden family to finish high school while her mother and brothers were in Macon for the year.
Before leaving Pickens she wrote in August 1945 to Dr. C. C. Norton to arrange to donate Horace's library to Wofford College. He accepted and offered to pay for having the books boxed and shipped. The following February 17 in a service of remembrance in the college chapel Dr. Norton read Horace's name among the 73 men who were Wofford alumni and who gave their lives during the Second World War. Retired President Snyder in his ninth decade gave the memorial address as he had done after World War I in 1919, and Dr. Trawick pronounced the benediction.
When the academic year ended at Wesleyan in 1946, Kate took her family back to live in Walhalla where they had had some wonderful associations nearly a decade earlier. They resided temporarily with the Holdens and then moved to a former parsonage available to retired ministers on Maple Street. The Methodists who owned the property rented to the family at a reduced rate. Kate drew a very small annuity from the church and a military widow's pension but there would still be a need for her to work outside the home. Remembering with affection that Horace had performed the wedding for his wife and him, Dr. Booker treated her and the children without charge. She finally learned to drive by taking a driver's education course in Walhalla. That success led her to buy a 1952 Chevrolet.
Kate and the family later moved to North Church Street where a larger house was on the market. After she bought it, she delighted in calling it "the house that the Angels built," since its original construction was done for a family named Angel or Angels. She got a position teaching typing, shorthand and other business related courses at Walhalla High School, once instructing her future daughter-in-law Carolyn Vivian Busch. She continued in that job until1968.
Katherine C. Gravely delighted that her sons could go to Wofford (and for John also to Clemson) and serve in the U.S. military, and that her daughter could graduate from her alma mater, Lander. In June 1950 Martha married Sam Marsh Willis who would go on to have a distinguished career at Clemson University where they live in retirement. In January 1954 Horace Jr. wed Alice Joanne Aiken of Spartanburg. His business career in industrial sales with three firms spanned four decades before he retired in 1997 in Walhalla. John married Carolyn Busch in 1957 and then worked with a number of firms in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina and eventually in Texas. He retired there from NORTEL in 1999. After a stroke in 1975 Kate resided in a Greer, South Carolina nursing home. She died in St. Francis Hospital, Greenville, May 28, 1976 and is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Pickens.
The last of Horace's Gravely uncles, Mack passed away on December 3, 1946 after he had turned eighty and after he and his wife Aunt Mag had celebrated fifty years of marriage. Horace's Uncle Tom McKinney lived into his 92nd year, dying in December 1963. His wife, Aunt Blake, lived on until January 1972. Horace's mother Betty Gravely had lived into her 95th year when she died in January 1969. Horace's brother Tom died in June 1989, seven years after Tom's wife Mae Hudson Gravely passed on. Five years later their sister Frances Winchester succumbed to cancer and in 1997 her husband Ernest died. Next to go was Marvin who died in 1995; forty years after cancer took his first wife Artie Hughes Gravely. His second wife, whom Horace never knew, was Lois Howard Gravely who lives today. The last of the generation, Horace's sister Eula died in August, 2000 after living to the same age as her mother Betty and after being a widow of Austin Durham for thirty-two years.
Three years ago the Gravely Memorial Church in Spartanburg celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its beginnings date back to an initial service on July 4, 1948 organized by a group of people in the Southern Shops area of the community. Two weeks later Horace's college friend and the pastor to his family when he died, Bernard Drennan preached at a revival which led to the commission of a new church by the end of the month. Twenty charter members were received into the church first called Bethel Mission Charge with Rev. Roy Calvert as pastor, and later changed to Lone Oak Methodist Church. In 1949 a military chapel from Camp Croft obtained by District Superintendent, S.D. Newell, was moved to the present location and remodeling begun on November 28. It was completed in time for Easter Sunday April 9, 1950, when the effort to rename the church in honor of Horace Gravely culminated in the change. Over the years at anniversaries every five years, family members and, Bernard Drennan, until his poor health and finally his death prevented, have attended.
It is one of life's impossibilities that when someone dies, we cannot know what he or she is thinking or feeling when passing from an earthly life into the next life. That impenetrable mystery is heightened in the case of Chaplain Horace Gravely, since we know so little about exactly how his death came. Was it on board the Mallory as it sunk? Was it in one of the boats or rafts that capsized? Was it in the icy water with a life jacket on? How did his end come? There are no records as yet to verify other than what Father Whelan wrote to Horace's brother in 1943.
We do know what was happening for his mother the night Horace Gravely died. Sleeping fitfully, Betty Gravely dreamt that "she was reaching for him before he went under the water." Her grip was so strong that she broke her second finger, and she later told her older grandchildren Horace Jr. and Alvin about this spiritual connection of mother and son, showing them where the break was. When her son Marvin and Preacher Drennan drove up to her house later in February 1943 to tell her what the War Department had reported, she was digging in her garden. Her dream and its quality of premonition did not blunt the shock of the news, but it confirmed her deep sense of sharing in her son's death in another dimension.
When his colleagues and friends were writing tributes to Chaplain Gravely in 1943 and afterward, including a poem the popular Baptist preacher in Greenville, Sam Gardner composed, one motif that emerged was to regret his loss at the height of his maturity, not yet 42 years of age. Some spoke of how the Methodist conference would miss his leadership, which had just begun to occur beyond the local level. He had recently served, for example, on the Upper South Carolina Conference church extension board. He had also been a secretary for the Anderson District conferences when his friend, district superintendent and Pickens County native Leo Gillespie was in charge.
At some point, probably in his Wofford years Horace had gone to Indianapolis after Christmas and over New Year's to a Student Volunteer Movement conference where YMCA leaders like Sherwood Eddy inspired young Americans who wanted to see their Christianity have relevance to world peace as well as to troubling challenges like race relations. Horace's report after the meeting faced those issues candidly, leaving us to ponder what wisdom and courage he might have offered in the post war years when the nuclear age dawned. In his denomination the two white Methodist conferences merged into one, and his wife's alma mater Lander College was made a public institution in Greenwood, South Carolina. Given his acceptance of others, he might have been a leader in the struggle to integrate Wofford College in 1962 and to merge the black South Carolina Conference dating from 1866 with the white South Carolina Conference. Those developments culminated about the time he would have retired from the ministry. But none of us then or now can know what might have happened, other than to observe sadly that, like his father who was ten years older than Horace at his death, he never lived to see his grandchildren. The same thing had happened to his maternal grandfather, T. N. McKinney.
Twenty years before Horace Gravely passed away he was an older freshman entering Wofford at the age of twenty-two. In his YMCA handbook he wrote down some poetry, something he read or memorized. Both passages seem to capture an anticipation of the close of his life, even as he could not know it would end not quite two decades later. They breathe a spirit kin to what his contemporaries said about his faith. Perhaps they also provide some clues to how he related to those mostly young men around him in panic after the U-boat attack on the Henry Mallory as well as to his own demise. The first poem read:
I must travel the miles till the journey is done
Whatsoever the turn of the way
I shall up at last at the set of the Sun
And shall rest at the close of the day.
Let me deal as I journey with foeman and friends
In a way that no man can assail.
And find nothing but peace at roadway's last bend
When I come to the end of the trail.
We are brothers who travel a great common road
And the journey is easy for none.
We must succor the weary and lift on the load
Of the pilgrims whose courage is done.
Let me deal with them each on my way to the west
With a mercy that never can fail
And lie down to my dreams with a conscience at rest
When I come to the end of the trail.
The second poem was actually a hymn from the early 19th century composed by Phoebe Hinsdale Brown (1783-1861). It was more devotional, perhaps reflecting the style of his Christian spirituality while prevailed until his last breath.
I love to steal a while away
From every cumbering care
And spend the hours of setting day
In humble grateful prayer.
I love in solitude
To shed the penitential tear
And all his promises to plead
Where none but God can hear.
I love to think on mercies past
And future good implore
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On him whom I adore.
I love by faith to take a view
To brighter scenes in heaven.
The prospect doth my strength renew
While here by tempest driven.
Thus when life's toilsome day is o'er
May its departing ray
Be calm as this impressive hour
And lead to endless day.
Scriptural passages copied by Horace Gravely in the covers of his YMCA Handbook at Wofford College, 1923: "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:11) and "1 press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14)
Captain David Youngdahl, Chaplain, shown here in this photo as a 1st Lt.
In Swanville, Minnesota on 16 February 1905, two Swedish immigrants had a child named David H. Youngdahl. This young boy would one day enter the ministry and serve his country. It would be a journey that would take him far from his Swedish roots and far from Minnesota. It would be a journey that would end some 38-years later and 500 miles southwest of Iceland in the middle of the cold deadly North Atlantic Ocean.
Little is known of David H. Youngdahl except that he was attending and graduated in 1930 with a Bachelors of Theology degree from the Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from Bethel, by April of 1930 he was, according to the Federal Census, a licensed Clergyman in a Baptist Church in New Richmond, Wisconsin. He was at the time 25-years of age and single. This was likely the First Baptist Church in New Richmond and he may have been the Pastor there or may have been an assistant pastor. Within a short time Mr. Youngdahl had moved to the state of Washington where he attended the Seattle Pacific College and earned a B. A. degree in 1933. The following year he again moved, this time to Berkeley, California where he attended the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, earning a B.D. degree in 1934.
According to the California Voter Register, there was living at No. 15 Dearborn Street a single man named David H. Youngdahl. He was a minister and also listed as a Republican. David Youngdahl would live at No. 15 Dearborn until sometime in 1936 when he moved to No. 32 Dearborn Street. This was due to his marriage to Charlotte C. Bridge, his new wife. On January 22, 1937 a son named Samuel David Youngdahl was born. David, Charlotte and Samuel would live at No. 32 Dearborn at least through 1938 or 1939. On the California Voter Registration list for 1940, David H. Youngdahl is listed alone living back at No. 15 Dearborn Street. It is not known why in 1940 that Charlotte is not listed with David in fact she is not listed at all. David is still on the 1940 Voter list recorded as being a minister. Nothing more is known about Charlotte or her son, Samuel except the last known address of 2104 Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara, California. This was the address Mr. Youngdahl gave in April 1942 as next of kin when he joined the Army.
As America in December of 1941, entered into the growing war, David H. Youngdahl was called to serve in the Military and on 8 April 1942 entered the army at San Francisco, California. David Youngdahl entered into the Army Chaplain Corps at the rank of First Lieutenant and was given his service number of O448376. He was assigned to the 53rd Field Artillery Regiment then located at Camp Myles Standish, in Taunton, Massachusetts, as Chaplain in early 1942.
Sometime shortly before he was assigned to duty in Iceland, Lt. Youngdahl was promoted to the rank of Captain. His transportation there was to be on the USS Henry R. Mallory. She was a veteran of many wartime crossings, both during the First World War and the present War. Once aboard ship Chaplain Youngdahl could not know that his life would end within days of seeing the Statue of Liberty grow ever faint on the horizon as the Mallory sailed eastward.
It is likely that Chaplain Youngdahl thought he would see combat on the continent of Europe where he would be needed to help his fellow soldiers in battle on the soil of France and Germany. But Chaplain Youngdahl’s battlefield was the very ship he was sailing in. It was a battle in which he would not be able to leave with his life for at 0358 hours on Sunday morning February 7, 1943 the battle came to the men aboard the Mallory. There were 7 Chaplains aboard the Mallory this trip and the Chaplain’s would render much needed aid and comfort to the men aboard the doomed Mallory. Only two Chaplains would survive the day. Captain David H. Youngdahl would not be among the two Chaplains saved and the exact moment that his life ended is not known, but his body was not recovered.
The angry icy waters of the North Atlantic claimed her quota that day. According to rescue reports from the Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Bibb, there simply was not enough time to gather all the dead bodies in the water. The Bibb’s Captain had to give the unthinkable order that dead men were not to be brought aboard due to the fact that German U-boats were still in the area and as the Bibb lay still picking up living survivors she was an inviting and easy target for the Germans, which would have made for an even larger disaster then was before them at that moment had the Bibb been torpedoed herself.
Back in Santa Barbara, California on 3 August 1943 a letter from the Chief of Chaplains arrived at 2104 Hollister Avenue. Charlotte C. Youngdahl opens and reads for the first time that her husband and father to her son Samuel, was killed in action aboard the ship he was traveling on. Captain David H. Youngdahl, O448376, Northern Baptist Chaplain, US Army Chaplain Corps was awarded the Purple Heart Posthumously on 9 August 1945 and his name appears on the monument in Cambridge, England inscribed with the names of the men Missing in Action or Lost at Sea.
Father Gerald J. Whelan
On board the Mallory were 7 Army Chaplains, two of who would survive the sinking. All seven chaplains showed great courage in giving aid and comfort to the men aboard the Mallory. Father Gerald J. Whelan was one of the two chaplains to survive the icy cold waters that day.
Chaplain Whelan made his way to one of the lifeboats where he heard someone calling in an Irish voice “Jump Father, jump!” Father Whelan did just that and once in the lifeboat he found another man named Joe Reilly who was from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Reilly and Whelan were both from Massachusetts and had become friends in the days before the sinking and it was Reilly calling to Father Whelan to jump into the lifeboat. Father Whelan described his ordeal of getting into the boat and away from the sinking Mallory. “I knew he [Joe Reilly] would know how to run a boat because every mother who gives birth to a boy in Gloucester takes him down to sea immediately and gives him oarlocks. I said he would run the boat and the rest of us would take orders from him. He found the sea anchor, which helped keep our boat into the seas. He closed the seacock, which had been letting in water by the bucketfuls. We also had two poor Marines, legs broken, their faces damaged badly. How they got into the boat I don’t know, but someone should have gotten the Soldier’s Medal for their rescue. I said ‘Joe, lets you and me start saying a rosary. We need help. I don’t know whether you guys have ever heard of the Blessed Mother of Christ, but Reilly and I have and some of you guys are Catholics. I can’t make you out in the darkness, but if you’ll be quiet and join in with us, and promise to change your lives if they need changing, we will be picked up.” For the next four and a half hours Father Whelan and the men in his boat said rosary until the USCGC Bibb picked them up.
Gerald’s father was born in Massachusetts and his mother was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Gerald J. Whelan was truly a gift from God as he was born on Christmas Day of 1906. Early on Christmas morning Gerald’s older brother was said to have crept downstairs to see what Santa had brought him, he found a little brother all wrapped up in blankets and said “Heck, I never asked Santa for that!” Young Gerald or “Gerry” as he was known grew up just as any other Catholic kid did in the Boston area. There were many scrub-games of baseball at the corner lot, Mass, snowball fights, organ lessons, Mass, ice-cream soda at the drug store after school, and the ever present Mass. But it was said that during the summer of 1920 when Gerry Whelan decided to become a Redemptorist many in the old neighborhood thought he’d be back by Christmas. But Gerry never looked back as he knew his calling. Gerry always had a special way about him making all feel at home with him and he always made it a point to be jolly with all who he met. Music seemed to be in Gerry’s blood also, as he was a very good coronet player and could play the piano by ear.
The story of Father Gerald J. Whelan can be told starting from a handwritten manuscript in his own hand. This came from his personal records held at the Redemptorist Provincial Archives, Baltimore Province Our Lady of Good Counsel, located in Brooklyn, NY. In this manuscript written in 1927 Father Whelan describes his early years.
On December 25th 1906 I was born in Roxbury, MA, of good catholic parents. I lived and was brought up in the Redemptorist Parish of that City, In the Redemptorist Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help I was baptized, confessed and communicated for my first time and was confirmed by Cardinal O’Connell.
I attended the parochial school of the Parish and graduated from same school in June 1920.
For nearly four-years I served as an alter-boy at the Mission Church and at a nearby convent of nuns. It was during this time, I’m sure God must have planted in my young soul the seed of religious vocation.
After taking counsel with my confessor, I entered the preparatory college of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, situated at North East Pennsylvania. This was in the fall of the year 1920. Six years later, completing the course of studies I graduated in the year 1926 the 20th of May.
In the following month, June I was admitted to the Novitiate at Ilchester, Maryland. On August 1, 1926 I received the habit of St. Alphonsus. After the canonical year of trial and probation I was permitted by the grace of God to take the vows of religion, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.
Nothing extraordinary is connected with my vocation except that in spite of all my sins and infidelities, God led me along calmly by His Devine Grace into religious life where with the help of His Grace I can only persevere to the end, protected by His Holy and Immaculate mother Mary.
Once Gerald Whelan was ordained on June 16, 1932 he was part of the Redemptorist Order and served at the Mission Church in Roxbury, MA. As the United States entered into the WWII years, Father Whelan felt his call to serve his fellow Americans in the Military and so he became an Army Chaplain in the Catholic faith. On February 20, 1942 he was commissioned into the Army at the rank of 1st Lieutenant and his service number of O438840 was assigned to him. On December 3, 1942 he was advanced to the rank of Captain. His first assignment in the army was at Shaw Field Basic Flying School located near Sumpter, South Carolina. Father Whelan would serve here from March 9, 1942 through December 20, 1942.
While at Shaw Field Whelan writes to a young student back home who asked him how he liked the Army and Father Whelan replied back to him with this letter. “I like the Army not because it is different from religious life, but because it is so like it. The monotony of doing things over and over gets some lads down, but as a Redemptorist I’ve been doing things over and over since I was thirteen. Obedience to orders… nothing new to a religious! Living together with a crowd of men; eating, sleeping and finding amusement together; that has been my life for more than twenty-two years. No, there are no extreme readjustments needed to pass from religious into military life.”
Father Whelan tells of his approach with meeting the men at Shaw Field; “Whenever I meet a lad for the first time, after a few preliminary pleasantries, I inquire what his religion is; then if he goes to church. This to all, Jews, Protestant and Catholic alike, and my next question is why not?” He soon knew great numbers of enlisted men by name, and they liked him all the more for it. Father Whelan had a good sense of humor too as he stated in a letter home. “Just discovered that we officers must put in three hours of intensive drill daily. Boy at my tender age of 35 it will kill me. It has been three years at least since I’ve done anything more violent than brush my teeth.” But the fact was he was fit as a fiddle from being an active participant in playing sports.
By December of 1943 he was made Captain and shortly after was transferred to Camp Myles Standish at Taunton, MA. Very soon he would be sent overseas. Now he was back near his home in Roxbury and in early January 1943 he was given orders to sail to Iceland. So one night before sailing he walked back to the Mission Church, his church and stood before the shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He knelt down for a few moments thinking how his mother had knelt there some thirty-six years before on a Christmas Eve, the night before he was born. He rose to his feet, stole one last look at the miraculous picture and said his “good bye” for the next day he was to ship out.
That evening Father Whelan went home to pay his respects to the family. And with him he had four guests, Father Jim Liston who would sail with him on the Mallory and Father John Washington who would sail on the Dorchester. Liston would be killed on the Mallory and Washington would be killed when the Dorchester was sunk. Father Washington would also be one of the four famous Chaplains that were immortalized on the Postage Stamp after the war. Also there were two other doctors who came along to the Whelan home. All four men were friends from Camp Myles Standish. As the evening of song and chatting and eating cookies wore on at the Whelan home it soon enough became time for that usual kiss and hug goodbye to his mother. Father Whelan simply said “I’ll be seeing you,” and they were off back to Camp Standish. Father Whelan knew he was shipping out in the morning but kept this secret to himself, not wanting to worry the family or his wonderful mother.
The next morning Fathers Whelan and Liston boarded the Mallory and there they found five other chaplains, and of the seven chaplains aboard only two would survive the voyage. Chaplain Ira Bentley and Father Whelan would be the lucky two.
During the voyage on the Mallory the Chaplains were kept busy in getting to know the men, and cheering up the downcast youngsters and hearing confessions. In the days before the sinking Father Whelan had been working with a group of 3 boys who he had been trying to bring back to the faith without much success. But a night or so before the sinking Whelan had bumped into the group quite by accident and he inquired with them “How about tonight, I’ll be hearing confessions for tomorrow.” Two of the boys agreed but the third put it off. The conversation with the three boys went something like this. “Better play safe, Bud, see those two planes wheeling around up there. That’s Jerry! And sure as guns by morning there’ll be subs on our scent.” But the third boy replied, “Nope, I’ll go when we get on shore.”
One of the three boys said to Father Whelan, “Say, Padre, tomorrow’s the day you know.” This redheaded Seaman First Class had been taking instructions in the Faith from Father Whelan since they had sailed, and tomorrow he was going to be baptized and make his first Communion. Father Whelan replied back to him, “Right you are Ken, right before Mass.” That evening Father Whelan had said the rosary with several groups of men in several parts of the ship. He had even gone to Confession himself with one of the other catholic Chaplains aboard. As the evening wore on Father Whelan lay in his bunk fully clothed as he was supposed to. The steady pounding of the ships engines rocked him to sleep. But that morning at 03:58 hours it happened, they were attacked.
Once the good Father Whelan was rescued and on board the Bibb, he had a visitor. One of the Mallory’s survivors, a redheaded seaman named Ken. “Remember me, Padre?” asked the seaman. Father Whelan replied with “Sure do Ken. And I think we have a little date for this morning,” almost as if he had expected Ken to be there. And so right there before Mass Father Whelan and Ken went down to the Bibb’s boiler room for water and there baptized the red-headed seaman. As the Bibb’s men watched they were chatting afterwards with Father Whelan. One was said to have said, “Do you know something. Picking you up wasn’t in our orders. We were to hunt that sub and slug it with depth bombs. God only knows what made the captain change his mind and take you guys on.” Father Whelan did not say anything. But later in a letter to his superiors he writes “No I did not even get a head cold for our escapade. But believe you me, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was there in person.” And back at home Father Whelan’s mother was said to have been kneeling at the alter before Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Sunday morning the day of the sinking, just as she had been doing the night before Father Whelan was born. I think it was God who made captain Raney stop the Bibb that morning to rescue the men of the Mallory.
Back home the Whelan family was unaware of the disaster. But when his first letter arrived home after his rescue there was only a slight hint that something terrible had happened. He writes, “Everything here is OK. This is a hospital and there is much to do. I am kept real busy, …the scenery here is very rugged and awe-inspiring.” It was only in the last sentence of his letter that there was the slightest hint of something, “I would like some Novena booklets and a picture of Perpetual Help, I lost all I had.”
But in the weeks that followed the sinking, small little bits of information started to get back to the family in Roxbury. In one letter Father Whelan writes back home he says, “Sorry you have heard of our escapade. No sense in worrying you. But I do owe my safety to Perpetual Help. Keep up the praying.” But back home there was the thought that Father Whelan was hurt and in the hospital, or had a leg amputated or any number of horrible things the family could think of. But in another letter written from Iceland to a church member Father Whelan sets the records straight in his special humorous way. “I hear there are rumors about that I am in a bad way; that I’ve lost my legs, etc. Please quash them, for I am in the best of health. Matter of fact, I was playing softball last night, and we won too; pretty good for a guy with no legs!”
Four months after the sinking in June was the first time he could tell the family where he was, but the family had guessed it weeks back. Again he writes, “As you already have surmised, I’m in Iceland. And so you are having hot weather, well here on the balmiest days we wear sweaters or field jackets. There is some law up here that the citizens during the summer months must wear light summer clothing, regardless of the temperature. A few days ago en route to Mass in a Jeep, I spied a lad strolling along the hard beach in bathing trunks. And myself and the driver, near frozen to death! They must have tough hides or darn great imaginations!” Still in another letter he stated that he “has not seen a shrub or a tree in six months!”
Father Whelan’s mother had written him while stationed in Iceland reminding him to drink lots of milk as any good mother would. In a return letter he writes “Ma, I got a kick out of your advice to drink lots of milk. Do you think you could capture a few fat cows and send them over. But we do get some milk occasionally!”
In excerpts from several letters home Father Whelan gives some hints how live in Iceland was during the war years. In May he writes; “I say Mass at eight, nine, and ten-thirty with confessions before and after each Mass. And to each of them soldiers come in trucks from all sorts of places, and in all kinds of weather, and I do mean weather! This place is unique. It is not a garrison with a nearby town or Post Exchange, where the lads could drop in for a snack of breakfast after receiving. Some of these spots are twenty and thirty miles from the nearest camp or town. But the spirit of the men is marvelous. It would put priests and people in the States to shame.”
And in another letter from June he writes; “I met a couple of Gobs [slang term for navy men] in town last week. They were from New York and were tickled pink to meet up with a priest, as they hadn’t seen one in months. This is a great place for converts. I am here at a General Hospital, which is more or less central, and the boys know I’m here they drop in at any time. They have plenty of time to think up here, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Our chapel is being enlarged to accommodate attendance.”
Part of his Christmas letter back home contained this passage, “Hope you all had a Merry Christmas. We did. Can’t tell the number present for Midnight Mass but it exceeded my wildest expectations. At 11:30 I directed the choir in Christmas carols (I felt like Crosby, though perhaps I sounded like Durante!) The choir sang the Mass and after Benediction, the whole crowd chimed in on the ‘Holy God’ and almost raised the roof of the hanger! It was a white Christmas, and no dreaming! It was snowing before midnight, and after Mass the Northern Lights set up their own Christmas decorations.”
Thirty-one years after the sinking, Father Whelan is with several close friends in Jacksonville, Florida. One of the friends is another priest by the name of Father James J. Galvin, who has with him a cassette tape recorder. He records the conversations with Father Whelan about the events of the voyage, sinking and life after the rescue. This taped conversation was transcribed by Father Galvin and from his notes this is Father Whelan’s story of the sinking of the Mallory and events associated with it.
Father Whelan comments to the group listening to him. “And the only other chaplain that made it was a Baptist [Chaplain Ira Bentley]. He used to sleep with his clothes on, which you’re supposed to. But it was to dam hot! And I was the ranking officer. It was to dam hot when they battened down the hatches! When we were hit I immediately woke up, made and act of Contrition and gave General Absolution to all aboard. He [Bentley] leaped out. Them guys had to go thru our cabin, running like hell! Where the hell are you going I yelled. Then I grabbed the other Chaplain by the back, where the hell are you going, Ira? ‘Why? Cause I want to get off.’ Ira answered back to Father Whelan. “Wait I yelled you’ll be drowned.”
“The waves were 30 to 40 feet high.” Father Whelan described how those in his lifeboat pitched so high on the crest of the icy wave, and in his words, “that we could look down on the skipper, [Commander Roy Raney of the USCGC Bibb] bull-horn in hand up on the bridge of our rescue ship, that’s a good 35 feet out of the water! And then we drop down to a point where you could see the ship’s belly and the screw propellers churning empty air. We could hear his voice bellowing over the bull-horn... ’If you’re able, grab the railing as we go by; if not wait till we throw you a rope.’” Father Whelan continues. “And everyone near me was saying to me ‘Go ahead Father!’ So we got the two marines off first. Meanwhile they were urging ‘Go ahead Father’ until we heard a ear-splitting command from the bull-horn” It was Commander Raney’s voice ‘For Christ’s sakes, somebody grab the rail!’ “So I grabbed the rail and landed with a thud. Geeze my hands were frozen and I thought ‘there go my legs!’ A big Lieutenant from North Carolina, his name was Heaney, grabbed me by the seat of the pants and dropped me on the deck. Anyways they take me inside give me warm clothing, give us a shot of booze and I went back and anointed everything that was there. They strapped me to a stanchion post.”
Shortly after being rescued and safe inside the Bibb, Father Whelan is enjoying the “shot of Booze” given to those rescued from the water. Father Whelan in his special way of telling the story continues with what happened. “But there was a guy named McCarthy who was the Second Engineer [on the Mallory], he picked up the canteen and said ‘You know Father, if we ever go over the side the Coast Guard don’t give any of this dam stuff. If we get to dry land, can I have this one?’ I said to him, you might be interested; it’s filled with Bourbon. He said ‘Jeepers, Bourbon!’ They hadn’t had a drink in 3 months. So I never saw the canister again!”
It was said of Father Whelan that he was a great storyteller and could over the years bring the facts together and that the experience of surviving the sinking of the Mallory was forever connected to him and all that he did from that moment on. He continued with this part of the story that took place years after the sinking. “The aftermath of this... I’m giving a Sacred Heart Novena up in Parkchester [New York], and I, well at sea I’d made a vow that if I lived I’d never miss a chance to tell of the tremendous power of the Blessed Mother. I brought the story of the rescue in during the last talk, just in passing. Afterwards I hear confessions, and this girl came in and after her confession she said, ‘You wouldn’t be the Father Whelan that gave my brother a quart of Old Taylor up in the North Atlantic?’ And he said to her, “Is your name McCarthy?” She said, “Yes.” Father Whelan responded to her “Well, I’m he.” Whelan sense of humor was legendary and he ends that story with “I’ll bet he still tells that story in every joint and gin mill in Westchester!”
Luke Doheney, one of the others gathered in Jacksonville, Florida to hear Father Whelan’s story in 1974 asked him a question to keep him on track in telling the Mallory story. Father Whelan was also famous for digressions in his story telling. Luke Doheney asks this question to Father Whelan. “How could you hear the screws of the sub?” Father Whelan commented, “Yes, we were hit on the starboard side, right on the water level.”
Again digressing somewhat Father Whelan told how the Third Mate of the Mallory, during the days before the attack, had said to Father James Liston, one of the other Catholic Chaplains on the Mallory that trip, “Cripes Father put on your clothes. They’re right out there. You can hear them!” Father Liston replied back. “Cripes. It’s too dam hot!” Father Whelan always a good Catholic knew who his flock was and interjected that this Third Mate was a guy from Jamaica Plains, New York and had come back to the Sacraments after 20 years!
Continuing on Whelan recounts, “We used to say the rosary every night at Nine O’clock. Then that same night we said the rosary again, as there was General Quarters at 2300 hours. Everyone had to go to his station. Then things quieted down. And then we said the rosary again, the four of us Father Liston, Father Savignac, and... I can’t think of his name. He came from Taylorville, Illinois. [In fact this was 2nd Lt. John “Jack” T. Stokes USA Medical Administration Corps] Whelan continued, “He was a real saint. I’d heard his confession. He never lost his baptismal innocence! And if you met the guy, you’d think he was a rough tough son of a seacook. The last I saw of him I said “Hi Jack” and he said ‘Hi Father, what shall we do?’ Father Whelan’s reply was “Let’s get the hell off this!” At the time the Mallory was listing badly.
Father Whelan spoke about the lack of proper training for disasters at sea by the passengers as none of them were properly instructed. “The mistake guys made, was to run to the high side of the ship. And you know from the navy, you run to the low side, the high side is where the waves are going to be coming on. So all the boats swept over. So I climbed down this rope ladder and there was a kid yelling ‘Jump Father’ and my hat blew off, I’ll never forget that. I’m reaching to grab my hat and wait for the next sea to come up and someone yells out ‘For Christ’s sake, somebody jump!’ And I hear this kid with a Boston accent yelling ‘Jump Father!’
Father Whelan veers of the story some in another of his famous digressions; “I married him to a nice girl. He’s a traffic cop in Boston, Joe Reilly. I was giving a talk one time to a Holy Name at Saint Aiden’s in Brooklyn and I made a gesture and who was setting there but Joe Reilly! I hadn’t seen him since that night in the North Atlantic when he yelled ‘Jump Father!’ So he came in afterwards and that following Easter I married him. He’s in Joy Street Station, Boston.”
The story picks up again where Joe Reilly is yelling, “Jump father!” Father Whelan continued with “so I jumped and got half in and half out and got cut. No one told us how to release the boats.” The men had to use Jackknives to cut the ropes loose as no one knew the proper way to lower the boats and also the fact that the ropes were so iced up they couldn’t move anyway. He continues in the telling of the story, “Then the Captain [Horace Weaver, the Mallory’s Master] got in his launch and just as they were about ready to clip away the Mallory heaved, one of these divots like a huge monster tipped him over. And the ship’s doctor, [Dr. Joseph Grabenstein] he came from Flushing and was a Jew, he used to walk in his bathrobe with Father Jim Liston, the pair of them. They were both afraid of the sea. He went down in the Captain’s boat, and the whole sea filled with bobbing heads and bodies, 860 men!”
Skipping back to a story of the four men who said the rosary every night at 9 O’clock, Father Whelan remarks. “So anyways “Jack” Stokes... The War Department up until recently, I’d get letters from the War Department with pictures from mothers asking do you remember this man etc. I wrote to John Stokes mother “You can start praying to that son of yours, I can attest before God that he never lost his Baptismal Innocence!”
Again back to the sinking story Whelan starts again. “...and the trails of garbage that followed in our wake the subs could track us. We were losing about one ship a night. We had bearings on 35 submarines, a wolfpack! We lost the first ship right after Sandy Hook, New Jersey. In the middle of the day you’d see one of our ships blowing up. In fact the morning of the day before we were hit at 4 AM, and on Saturday, the day before our blow up it was a cold day, everybody was going after these German JU-88’s and Heinkel-111’s that came in from Norway. The guys would tell us on the ship, ‘Just a little target practice.’ The hell they were! They were radioing back our positions to the sub pack.”
“And you see the night we were hit the temperature was 28 degrees. The seas were running 20 to 40 feet high. It was a storm that lasted for four days and four nights, the same storm that snapped the gun turrets from the fantail of the battleship New York that was on the Murmansk run. Snapped the gun turrets, it was dam cold! It was sleet and snow.”
Now Father Whelan begins to turn the focus of his story to the sinking of the USAT Dorchester. This was another troopship in the same convoy as the Mallory and was sunk 4-days before the Mallory disaster. On the Dorchester were 4 Chaplains, all of whom were killed in the sinking. This was a story that the American public held on to during the war and later a United States Postage stamp was commissioned to honor them. The fact was that these four chaplains on the Dorchester and the seven chaplains on the Mallory knew each other. Father Whelan tells this part of the story in the best way he can. He tells it like he saw it and did not hold feelings back on this part of the story. Looking back on this now one can see his view point.
He continues, “See the Dorchester was hit at 11:00 PM on the night of the 3rd, a beautiful moon lit night and the temperature was 20 degrees and the sea calm. That’s why they thought their ship was going to stay afloat. The first mate, who I have met, on that ship, [Dorchester] had asked Father Washington to get off.”
In a slight digression Whelan continues, “Dr. Bob Kerr, who lives in Homer, New York, and has since became a Catholic, was mayor of the town, married a widow who was the wife of a Lieutenant who got killed in the war, he loved Father John Washington. He was playing bridge with Father John Washington and Jewish Chaplain Alexander Goode and Chaplain Clark Poling. The four of them were playing bridge in this big room where the officers were when they were hit. And this is the only grain of truth in the postage stamp legend, where Father Washington was supposed to have dropped to his knees and the others followed suit. Then they all got dressed and went topside. Everybody was walking up and down smoking cigarettes. The First Mate of the Dorchester came to Father Washington and said, ‘Father you better get the hell off this... If these bulkheads let go, we’ll go right down!’
At the time the Dorchester had her auxiliary lighting on and her batteries were nearly gone. Whelan picks up the story again. “And then Dr. Bob Kerr came to Father Washington, and whatever possessed Father Washington, whether he thought the Dorchester would stay afloat or what, he said ‘No, I’ll wait’ So then Bob Kerr chopped down a life boat, he had to chop it because it was iced. He saved 50 men and got his legs frozen, and they just about got clear of the Dorchester when the bulkheads burst and she went plunk into the deep!”
Whelan repeated this part again likely as a sign of his strong feelings on the subject. “Bob Kerr chopped down a lifeboat, he had to chop it because it was thick with ice and he saved 50 men and got his legs frozen. They just about got clear of the Dorchester when the bulkheads burst and whifft... the ship vanished into the deep. So it’s pure bullshit this story about singing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ and the chaplains holding hands etc. Kerr said there was one kid (a Sailor) in his boat who said, ‘Gee a Catholic priest went down and he’s the one that gave me my life jacket.’ That’s the original story. Arnold [Chief of Chaplains] and everybody on the [Dorchester] made a lot of bullshit about it!”
Bob Kerr, in talking about the “Postage stamp ecumenism” said; “if those 4 men had lived I would have demanded a court-martial! If one good man loses his life because he is a disobedient sailor it ruins the whole discipline of the ship. You were told when you got on the ship, don’t you shave, don’t you shit, don’t you do anything without your lifejacket.” Father Whelan states that the chaplains on the Dorchester knew this and so did Chief of Chaplains Arnold, and Arnold took a very dim view of Father Whelan because of this. This started when someone wrote to Chief of Chaplains Arnold about Whelan being on this Murmansk run but Frank Moriarty set Arnold straight “No. You got this all mixed up. Gerry Whelan wasn’t there at all!”
Now Father Whelan starts to talk about Commander Raney, the captain of the Bibb, the ship that rescued the bulk of the men from the Mallory. The fact is that Father Whelan and Captain Raney would stay in touch for the rest of their lives as each man had great respect for the other. On the morning of the rescue of the Mallory, Captain Raney on the bridge of the Bibb was said to have commented to his Junior Officer of the Deck, “Mr. Melia, it is good to be a member of the cloth. We saved both a Catholic and a Protestant chaplain.” Melia’s reply was “Captain, before the Mallory was torpedoed, there were 13 chaplains on board. The fact was that Melia did not know the exact number of Chaplains aboard, likely he had unreliable second hand facts, but it was fact that the number of Chaplains on the Mallory was seven.
Speaking back on the subject of Captain Raney, who retired as an Admiral in the Coast Guard, Whelan continued with another famous digression. “You know what they said, the retired admiral up in Saratoga, incidentally, that’s an interesting story, he comes from Arkansas.” “...at sea he broke radio silence and disobeyed orders. He said he “was dammed if he’d see a flock of his countrymen drown.” And so Captain Raney gave orders for the Bibb to go have a “Look-see” and if it was not for this act the survivors of the Mallory may not have survived the morning.
Raney broke radio silence and ordered the Ingham to screen him and asked permission from the British Commodore of the convoy, which was the largest in history up to that time, 78-ships, and his request was refused. So he said “the hell with this.” He could see the flashes in the night of exploding ships, and went over to have that “look-see.” Chaplain Whelan picks up the story, “He came over and picked us up. He’s taken Instructions for Faith three times, but never became a Catholic. He went 20 miles off course to look for survivors. Everyone in his family has either married a Catholic or became Catholics. His mother must have been a wonderful woman, a family of 8 kids.” Again Father Whelan veers off on a related Mallory event of years later. “One of his [Captain Raney] brothers dropped in at St. Alphonsus on the first Friday when I was home. I was hearing confessions and had my name up, he came in and said ‘You must be Father Whelan, my brother’s Prize Catch in the North Atlantic!’ Father Whelan replies, “you’re not a Raney are you?” “Yes. I’m a Court Officer. My brother always brags that you are his Prize Catch!”
In further describing the relationship between Father Whelan and Captain Raney, Whelan continued, “This is the first Christmas I didn’t get a card from him. Usually he writes on the anniversary, because it worries him.” In Raney’s words, “I acted as God that night, there were 10 men on this raft, and I’d take them, and pass up others.” Whelan adds, “And if it had been anybody but the Coast Guard, we’d never have made it! Because the engineer told me later that they had made something like sixty changes of engine, jockeying for the right angle, within a period of a couple of minutes!”
“And we were picked up,” Whelan continued, “we were attacked again by submarines, at 2:00 PM. We were attacked again that night at 2:00 AM. On the Bibb, there were 478 of us! And the capacity is 220. See they picked up another 60 that night. The Ingham picked up the second guys but Raney picked up everyone that he could. Then he asked permission to go into Londonderry and was again refused. See he had to take a segment of the convoy into Iceland! That’s how I happened to land in Iceland.”
Father Whelan would serve on Iceland through December of 1944. He would serve with both the 208th General Hospital and the 327th Station Hospital at Meeks Field Iceland. For Father Whelan duty was constant and he never took the “30-day survivor leave” that you see in the movies. He would continue to minister to those from the Mallory sinking. Father Whelan continues the story, “Yeah I took care of a kid from Staten Island right after we’d been rescued. We landed on the 14 of February, a month at sea. This kid had been blown up, and had a rubber suit on and kept himself warm under the dead bodies of his buddies on this open raft. He kept alive on malted milk tablets. He was bobbing there on the open sea when this skipper on a British Corvette said, ‘Lets make one more 90 degree turn’, and as he swung round this raft he saw the kid. This kid from Staten Island, his legs were frozen and had to have them amputated above the knees, all his fingers were frozen too. He had a German name. I used to visit him each day, no bitterness in him at all. He accepted his cross with kindness. And when he went back home...”
At this point according to Father James J. Galvin the man with the cassette tape recorder who had the foresight to record this conversation among friends in 1974 in Jacksonville, Florida, the battery of the recorder had begun running down. This made the tape when played on house current the words were speeded up to a rate that makes them indelibility nil. And so the rest of the story is as they say history. But Father Whelan’s story did not end with the dead batteries.
In January of 1945 he returned to the states going to Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. From then until his separation from the Army on June 5, 1946 he would serve at Berry Field in Nashville, TN, Charleston Army Air Base and Stewart Field. On his separation he was advanced in rank to Major.
Major, Father Gerald Whelan, US Army Chaplain Corps was awarded the European Theater of Operations, American Theater Medal, WWII Victory Medal, One Battle Star for Anti-submarine Warfare and Three Overseas Stripes.
After the war Father Whelan would continue in the Catholic Church as a Priest of the Redemptorist Order. Commander Roy Raney, the skipper of the Bibb who had rescued Father Whelan in the North Atlantic had always kept in touch with Whelan over the years. It is likely that Father Whelan and Raney, who was now an Admiral in the Coast Guard, spoke at length about the events of that morning when in Raney’s own words “I acted as God that night, there were 10 men on this raft, and I’d take them, and pass up others.” Raney may have had deep feelings about the horrible things he had seen at sea during the war and Father Whelan would have been one of the few men in which Raney could confide and understand. Whelan had said about Admiral Raney that each year on the anniversary of the sinking Raney would write him and once such letter from 7 February 1968 on the 25th anniversary is transcribed here.
775 John Ringling Blvd. Apt. G-7
Dear Father Whelan:
I am so happy that I thought of writing to Rochester for your address. Our paths just seem to cross, no matter how neglectful I may be in keeping up with my correspondence. Your arrival in Rochester, just as my letter arrived, was similar to that of my brother Claud when he appeared in your office in New York City soon after one of my infrequent letters reached you.
It is hoped that his visit to you was important to him. He passed away about two years ago without regaining consciousness following a severe operation. I sincerely believe he submitted to the anesthesia knowing that his soul was in God’s keeping.
As you can see, I am a poor typist. It is even more difficult for me to attempt a letter in longhand. When I retired eleven and a half years ago I lost my chance to push a button, and direct a Yeoman to “take a letter.”
You might be interested in a book written by Captain John Waters Jr. USCG, and published by D Van Nostrand Co., Inc. The book, entitled Bloody Winter, Tells of the struggle in the winter and spring of 1942-43, when the Allied escorts and German U-Boats fought it out for the control of the shipping lanes. Chapter Six devotes over forty pages to Convoy SC-118, which as you may know, was the convoy on which the Mallory was lost. The title of Chapter Six, appropriately enough, is “The Hardest Battle.” After reading again about what was so fresh in our minds at that time I feel fortunate that we can send greetings to each other twenty-five years later.
Not long after you visited us in Coral Cove we sold the house and moved into a Condominium Apartment located on the causeway connecting Sarasota and Lido Key. We have eighty-four units, most of which are owned by wonderful people. Our apartment is small, but is adequate for the two of us. Our water view is magnificent. There is a heated swimming pool (the water was 80 yesterday), a putting green, a shuffleboard court and, in addition, there are eighteen boat slips for boats up to 21’ in length. Directly across the street is the Sarasota Yacht Club, which serves about the best food in Sarasota.
I have shifted my membership from the Sarabay Country Club to the longboat Key Golf Club. The move hasn’t improved my score one bit; I had a 95 today. My present club is only about ten minutes drive from our apartment.
My other hobby, fishing, hasn’t improved either. I enjoy it as much, but catch fewer fish.
I hope this finds you in good health. Charlotte joins me in wishing you much success and satisfaction in your duties as Rector of Notre Dame of Canandaigua.
Between his discharge from the Army and 1975, Father Whelan would serve in several places. Among them were as the Rector of Notre Dame of Canandaigua, NY; and as the Rector of St. Mary’s College, North East, PA. Thirty-two years after the sinking of the Mallory, Father Whelan in February of 1975 would be the founding priest of the new church parish being started at Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
According to Chuck Casey who had known Father Whelan for several years while at Lookout Mountain, as Chuck’s own father was returning from France during WWI on the dock as his ship arrived there was a band there playing to greet the returning soldiers. In this band was a young man who was none other than Gerald Whelan. But later in life Chuck recalls about Father Whelan that he was a very warm person and a great competitor. Father Whelan loved the game of golf but he was not all that great at it. It was said that Father Whelan often said he never played golf on Saturday, Sunday or Monday but any other day he could be found on the golf course. Father Whelan had a great sense of humor and loved to shoot pool at the Casey’s home. Father Whelan had a little dog to keep him company and this dog was later hit by a car and killed. Father Whelan was very upset about this so his parishioners got him another dog to keep him company. This dog was with him until the day he passed away on March 24, 1985 in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
There is one final note to Father Whelan’s story. Found among the papers in his personal file at the Redemptorist Provincial Archives, Baltimore Province Our Lady of Good Counsel, located in Brooklyn, New York is an undated and unidentified newspaper clipping of an Editorial entitled “Were There Four Chaplains Or Nine?”
It can’t be said that Father Whelan was the author of this editorial, but it could have been possible he wrote it. It can be surmised that this was written some time in early February 1960 due to this wording, “This information is epically worthy of note on February 7, which is the 17th anniversary of the death of these five stalwart Chaplains.” It is possible that someone who had known Father Washington and also worked for The Catholic Standard and Times newspaper wrote this editorial. It can be said from Father Whelan’s stated feelings on the subject that he whole-heartily agreed with this editorial. Here is the transcribed editorial as it was written:
Were there Four Chaplains or Nine?
The “Chapel of the Four Chaplains” has been worrying out loud lately about the lack of enthusiasm among Catholics for the Chapel. The sponsors of the project find it difficult to understand why Catholics do not accept the slogan of the modernist that “one religion is as good as another.” They fail to see that our friendship for our non-Catholic neighbors and our respect for their religious convictions do not, cannot carry with them approval of their doctrines.
The New York Times for last Sunday announced that “a leading Roman Catholic layman will deliver the principal address in the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia at a ceremony next Sunday.”
The speaker, Dr. Shane MacCarthy, has informed the Philadelphia Chancery that he has placed certain restrictions on his appearance and has received the assurance that these will be carried out to the letter.
The conditions are: 1) that there be no religious service of any form whatsoever; 2) that no one appear on platform in any kind of religious garb, and 3) that he be accepted only as a representative of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness.
However, since the Chapel has brought up once more the question of Catholic participation, The Catholic Standard and Times feels justified in asking a few simple questions, the correct answers to which will relieve the minds of a great many people, Catholics and non-Catholics as well. The questions are:
What is the true story of the Four Chaplains? How much is history and how much parable in the story of the alleged clasping of hands by the four Chaplains as the ship went down a he-man game of ring-around-the-rosy?
The masculine note is absent. Father Washington’s friends, of whom the writer is one, could never envision him as playing little girls’ games. The purple patch is completely out of order when we remember that Father Washington, on a sinking ship, would need his right hand for blessing his shipmates and giving them absolution.
Why does the Chapel commemorate only four Chaplains, and not the nine who gave their lives in that encounter with the enemy? Why is the commemoration restricted to the four Chaplains on the S. S. Dorchester, thus excluding the five Chaplains on the S. S. Henry Mallory who lost their lives three nights later in the same general engagement?
There were seven Chaplains on the Mallory. Two were saved; five were lostthree Protestants and two Catholics. One priest and one Protestant Chaplain were saved by the Coast Guard and brought to Iceland.
The Protestant Chaplains lost were the Revs. Youngdahl of Minnesota, Gravely of South Carolina, and Mcdonald of Massachusetts. The Protestant Chaplain who survived is the Rev. Ira Bentley, now Pastor of the Connell Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.
The two Catholic priests who were lost were Rev. James M. Liston of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Rev. Valmore Savignac of the Diocese of Providence. The priest who was rescued is the Very Reverend Gerald J. Whelan, C.SS.R. Father Whelan is at present Rector of St. Mary’s College, North East, PA.
This information is epically worthy of note on February 7, which is the 17th anniversary of the death of these five stalwart Chaplains whose need of earthly glory has long been denied them. We salute them as heroes and ask God to grant eternal rest to their souls.
Father Gerald Whelan, USA, Chaplain Corps
Father Whelan performing Mass while at Shaw Field, South Carolina.
Chaplain Gerald Whelan exiting the chapel in Iceland with Senator “Happy” Chandler of Kentucky. Senator Lodge of Massachusetts is walking ahead of Chaplain Whelan. Upon his return to the States, Senator Lodge sent a personal letter to Chaplain Whelan’s mother, commending him on his fine work in Iceland.
Father Whelan assists during a soldier’s funeral at one of the cemeteries located in Iceland.
Chaplain Ira A. Bentley, Captain US Army Chaplain Corps
"As Chaplain Whelan read the services and Chaplain Bentley assisted him the bodies were committed to the depths"
Ira Alvin Bentley was born on 9 January 1908 in Forth Worth, Texas. Ira was the second eldest child of Wesley M. and Annie E. Bentley both of who were born about 1881. Sometime in 1902 Wesley and Annie married and their first child, a daughter named Letha B. was born about 1905. Then on 9 January 1908 came Ira Alvin Bentley. The 1910 Federal Census tells us that Wesley and Annie had been married for 6 years and just had the two children, Letha and Ira. In the home was also living Wesley’s mother, Sarah J. who was a 66-year old widow. Sarah was born in North Carolina but when she gave birth to Wesley she was living in Alabama. Wesley worked as a laborer for the railroad to support the family in April of 1910. At that time the family was living in Sherman County, Texas in a little town named Stratford.
By 1920 the Wesley Bentley family had moved to a farm located in Montague County, Texas between the towns of Forestburg and Newharp. The farm was located somewhere on the Forestburg-Newharp road, which is likely on the present day Texas road 1655. Wesley and Annie had by January 1920 added to the family with a daughter Janie born about 1921 and a third daughter named Laura born about 1923. Wesley was farming the ground and young Ira who was 11 at the time was listed as a farm laborer on the 1920 Federal Census. On the farm next to the Wesley Bentley farm was his brother’s farm. James C. Bentley who was 40-years old, the same age as his brother Wesley. Sarah Bentley, the mother of James and Wesley, who was now 75-years old, lived on the James Bentley farm. Both Brothers were farming and James wife’s name was Mae. Together James and Mae had 9 children.
In April of 1930 the Wesley Bentley family had moved to another farm in Wise County, Texas were Wesley was still farming. By then the family consisted of Wesley and Annie and children Janie, Laura and Ira. It is unclear if Ira, who was now 21-years old, was living full time with the family. On April 9, 1930 when Mrs. Rudd took the Census information at the Wesley Bentley home she recorded that Ira was living there. But two days later on April 11, 1930 the census worker Mrs. Eichelberger records in Waco, Texas on 10th Street at the home of John Holcomb located at 1801 Tenth Street, a single 21-year old man named Ira A. Bentley living there as a “Lodger.” Mr. Holcomb was a High School Principal, and possibly in Waco 21-year old Ira A. Bentley was attending college and stayed with the Holcomb family while at school. This would make sense, as Waco was about 100 miles to the south of the Bentley farm in Wise County.
Ira A. Bentley was attending Baylor University, which was located on Fifth Street in Waco. Ira was lodging at the Holcomb’s house on Tenth Street very near the Baylor Campus. Baylor is a privately run college of the Baptist Church. After graduation from Baylor he took courses at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is known that he did know the Hebrew and Greek languages. Little is known of his first assignment but it is known that the church he was pastor of before entering the army was the First Baptist Church of Elk City, Oklahoma.
As America was brought into the Second World War Ira felt his calling was to help his fellow man as a Chaplain in the Army. And so in May of 1942 Ira A. Bentley entered the Army at Camp Walters, Texas. On April 22, 1942 he was appointed a Chaplain in the Army Corps of Chaplains at the rank of Captain. In late 1942 Chaplain Bentley was transferred to Camp Myles Standish near Boston. There he would meet at least 2 other chaplains who would eventually sail with him aboard the Mallory. They were Chaplains Liston and Whelan.
Eventually Captain Bentley would be sent overseas where he would be needed to minister and care for men who would need him in their hour of need. Chaplain Bentley could not know at that time that his services would be required before they even got to the battlefields in Europe. Chaplain Bentley’s first taste of battle would be in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Assigned to the 824th Aviation Engineers based in Iceland, Chaplain Bentley along with six other Army Chaplains were assigned to sail on the USS Henry R. Mallory, bound for Iceland. The convoy sailed from New York on January 24 and the Mallory sailed with a new captain at her helm. Captain Horace Weaver was newly commissioned as her master but he was a veteran of several trips aboard the Mallory as a junior officer. This would be his first and last trip as Master. Along with a new Captain about half the Mallory’s crew was new, a fact that likely was not something that the troops aboard knew about.
The Mallory sailed on ever eastward in the cold rough weather. On February 3, the same day that four Army Chaplains were killed when the USS Dorchester was torpedoed and sank, the Mallory lost her convoy during the night. The troops on board noticed that the Mallory’s engines were cranking out a new desperate speed. The troops on board began to make there way topside to see the horrifying sight of no ships of the convoy in site anywhere on the horizon. Soon enough the Mallory made her way back into the relative safety of the convoy. It was likely that as she sailed alone the seven chaplains were busy calming the boys from the fears that lay ahead of them. For the next several nights the men aboard the Mallory could feel the German torpedoes hitting nearby ships in the convoy and the returning depth charges dropped by the escorting ships. Boat drills were held day and night on the Mallory, but there was no instruction on how to lower the boats, a simple fact that likely contributed to many deaths in the events of the morning of the Mallory’s demise.
On the afternoon Saturday February 6, the Chaplains organized a boxing match on the quarterdeck to take the ever-present feeling of doom off the crew and troops aboard. Chaplain Macdonald took an active part of the boxing matches. Later that night as the men fell back to thoughts of the unknown laid before them, the chaplains held a prayer service in the mess hall. Little did the men know that within 9 hours many of the men on board would lay dying and half frozen on the deadly cold water. But the Chaplains may have felt that the men needed some Devine inspiration on that last evening.
On Sunday February 7, 1943 at 0358 hrs Chaplain Ira Bentley and the six other chaplains received the first test of Battle. This would be a test in which only two of the seven chaplains would pass with their lives, Chaplain Whelan and Chaplain Bentley. Once the Mallory had slipped from the surface of the angry waters Chaplain Bentley found himself lucky to be among the living, for now. Men were drowning and freezing all around him. He would endure the icy waters for another eight hours, until rescued by the USCGC Bibb.
Captain Raney of the US Coast Guard Cutter Bibb was not going to leave the area until he rescued every living man in the water that morning, even disregarding a direct order from the convoy commander. Among the men from the Mallory that Captain Raney’s crew hauled aboard were the two surviving Chaplains from the Mallory. During the day of the rescue three of the men from the Mallory died later in the day. That evening Captain Raney stopped the Bibb when the darkness was sufficient to cover them. Chaplain Father Whelan and Chaplain Ira Bentley then prepared to conduct burial services for the three dead shipmates. As Chaplain Whelan read the services and Chaplain Bentley assisted him the bodies were committed to the depths. As soon as the bodies were slipped over the side the Bibb got underway again. It was reported that up on the bridge of the Bibb Captain Raney said to the Junior Officer of the Deck, “Mr. Melia, it is good to be a member of the cloth. We saved both a Catholic and a Protestant chaplain.” Melia’s reply was “Captain, before that ship [the Mallory] was torpedoed, there were 13 chaplains on board.” Raney and Melia had no way to know the two chaplains they had saved were the only two saved from the Mallory.
After the rescue the men from the Mallory were taken to Iceland. Chaplain Bentley remained there until November of 1943 when he was assigned to duty with the 8th Air Force Redistribution Station in England. There in England he had the opportunity to preach in many different English churches and missions. One such church mission, the Railway Mission in Preston, England appreciated Chaplain Bentley so much that they presented him with a silver cup, in which Bentley was ever proud of.
Captain Ira Bentley returned to the States in May of 1945 and was stationed in Tampa, Florida in June 1945 before being sent to Ardmore Air Force base in Carter County, Oklahoma. On September 14, 1945 Captain Bentley was relieved from Active Duty with the Army. His next assignment as a civilian was as the pastor of the Connell Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which was begun about October of 1945.
Before the war on December 25, 1932 at the age of 24, Ira Bentley married Alma Pearl Wilkerson. Now after surviving the sinking of the Mallory and the end of the war, Ira and his wife Alma began to pick up where they had left off when Ira went to war. Two years after Ira and Alma were married their first child was born, a son named Billy Mack Bentley, and was followed on November 1, 1936 by a daughter named Ira Nell Bentley.
In June of 1947 Pastor Bentley and his wife attended the Baptist World Alliance meetings held in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the same time he was also to make stops in Preston, Accrington and Dorchester, England to conduct revival meetings. During the war he had preached several times with great popularity in the Interdenominational Mission at Preston, England. The Bentley’s would be flying across the Atlantic and Alma had been excited about her first time flying, but Ira had remarked as a former 8th Air Force veteran “The excitement of flying wore off long ago for me.” On the trip over the Bentley’s were allowed 132 pounds of baggage and used as much of this to carry chocolate candy, plaid shirts for children and nylon hose for women to the three congregations Pastor Bentley would be speaking at in England.
The events of the sinking and survival of the USS Henry R. Mallory were forever fused to every survivor’s daily thoughts for the rest of their lives. Some in different way but each man who survived were forever connected with the event and likely never was able to forget the events of 0358 hrs on February 7, 1943. Many would never speak of the events again and some would reflect the events in public. Ira Bentley 17-years after the sinking in February of 1960 would recount the events to parishioners at his church where he was pastor. This was the Connell Baptist Church and as the now 52-year old graying pastor spoke to those gathered he spoke calmly and had no bitterness towards the Germans who had attacked them 17-years previous. Bentley was even able to recall with fondness, which brought smiles to his face when recalling some of the events of the sailing and sinking. But there was obvious sadness when he spoke of Savignac, Liston, Gravely, Mcdonald and Youngdahl the five other chaplains which he sailed with who were killed that day.
He spoke of how there was no memorial erected to those five chaplains except the one in the memories of those who knew and loved them. And that just as certainly as the front-line fighting man, they gave their lives in service of God and Country. Pastor Bentley continued telling how on that day of the attack he was sleeping restlessly in an upper bunk. Below him would be the only other chaplain to survive the sinking, that of Chaplain Whelan. “Suddenly there was a terrific jolt and I was knocked out of my bunk onto the floor,” Bentley stated. “The ship was shaking and shivering and I grabbed the bunk structure and called to Father Whelan.”
“Father Whelan went to his station and I went to mine. I remember donning an overcoat and dashing up to the deck. Then, and it’s silly to recall, I went back for gloves.” Bentley continues with “Despite military preparation everything was confusion and everything was pitch-black because the power system aboard ship had been knocked out.” Bentley had a life belt but he knew, as did every other man that this was going to be of little comfort if you were in the icy cold waters of the Atlantic that morning. Chaplain Bentley calmly waited at his assigned station until he could climb down the side of the quickly sinking Mallory on a rope ladder to a 30-foot lifeboat. At the time Chaplain Bentley was not sure if he was going to make it down the ladder but near the bottom he found the strong arms of a veteran sailor reaching up and grabbing him. Now in the lifeboat, which was now riding very low in the heavy seas he was among some 60 other men. The lifeboat was low in the water because there were 30 more men in the boat that the lifeboat was safe to carry.
Bentley continued with “I remember that as we were about to pull away someone shouted ‘there comes another man,’ and the man came down the rope ladder. But at that moment a terrific wave swept the lifeboat up against the sinking ship, and the rope ladder and that final man disappeared.” Now in the relative safety of the lifeboat Chaplain Bentley began to think. “For a time I was too paralyzed with fear to think of anything. Then I noticed that some of the tough sailors who had cursed and gambled and raised the dickens weren’t talking either.”
“Then I thought of my family, my wife and two children back in Fort Worth, and how little use I could be to them out here in this predicament.” Chaplain Bentley told how he began to think that he had left behind on the Mallory the little money that he brought with him, but he soon realized that the money would be of no value or use now. He began to think of the education he had from Baylor and the two-years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the thought that all this education was of no use to him now.
Then another thought came to him that the only thing he really had left was his faith in God. From that moment on he felt a calmness come over him that allowed him to leave the over loaded lifeboat with 60 men in it to another one that only had 15 men in it. About noon, which was about eight hours after leaving the Mallory and getting into the first lifeboat, the Coast Guard Cutter Bibb found and picked up the lifeboat Bentley and the others were in.
As the Mallory slipped under the surface of the Atlantic she carried to the bottom with her Chaplain Bentley’s Bible. Days later Bentley was safe on land in Iceland and there the only replacement Bible he could find was a Gideon Bible given to him from a Lutheran chaplain, which he would use for the rest of the time he was in the Army. This Gideon Bible Bentley used in many services there on Iceland and in England with the 8th Air Force and was brought back to the States with him and was his most treasured sacred possession. Bentley always remarked until his last day that as certain as he was when 40-foot waves slapped at an overloaded lifeboat in the North Atlantic years before that the one thing a man can hang onto is his faith in God.
Ira Alvin Bentley would serve as a pastor in the Connell Baptist church for the rest of his life until his death at the young age of 69-years. On July 20, 1977 Pastor Ira A. Bentley would pass away in Fort Worth Texas.
 During the confusion of the sinking and rescue there are at least 3 different accounts of how many chaplains were aboard the Mallory. The fact is that 5 chaplains lost their lives and only two, Whelan and Bentley were saved.
Arthur Shanks a 26-year-old electrician from Providence, Kentucky entered the Service in July of 1941 before the United States entered the war. He was drafted into the Army Air Corps. Shanks thought that due to his age he would be discharged the following March when he was to turn 27, but war broke out and his status was changed to "Duration". Shanks eventually found his way to Officers Candidate School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and following graduation from OCS was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. In the Signal Corps.
Lt. Shanks was ordered to proceed to Reykjavik, Iceland where he would run the base command radio station and had command of 20 men. The ship that would carry Lt. Shanks to Iceland would be the USS Henry R. Mallory. The Mallory traveling in Convoy SC-118 started out like many convoys before until on the morning of 7 February, 1943 at 4 O'clock in the morning his life would change in an instant.
Lt. Shanks was bunked with several other officers in a room in mid-ship of the Mallory, about 50 to 75 feet from where the torpedo struck the starboard side at Hold Number 3. That morning Lt. Shanks was already up before the attack and one of the enlisted men came to his bunk and told him that there were men on deck breaking light restrictions. They were opening doors to the outside and letting light out. Lt. Shanks was sure that this might have caught the attention of Kapitänleutnant Siegfried von Forstner and the crew of U-402 lurking in the icy cold darkness of the North Atlantic. It was also about this same time that the Mallory was to pull away from the convoy and head into Iceland. Those on board the Mallory had the feeling that something was going to happen but just did not know when it would. Very shortly within 5 to 10 minutes of pulling away from the convoy the moment came when the U-402 launched her torpedo and hit the Mallory on the Starboard side at Hold Number 3. (There is a differing of opinions about what side the torpedo hit the Mallory. Two survivors, 2nd Lt. Shanks and Mr. Joseph I. McMillen a Marine bunked in Hold No. 3 remember that it hit on the Port side. According to several official reports from the USCGC Ingham the starboard side was hit. Another report from the National Archives of the sinking shows a outline drawing of the Mallory showing the point of impact again on the starboard side. At this point more sources point to the starboard side so until more evidence comes to light I believe the official reports of the starboard side as the side of impact.)
Lt. Shanks went for his lifeboat station and the lifeboat that he was in charge of that held 50 to 60 men, but a over zealous Merchant Marine cut the lifeboat loose and it drifted off with only two men in it. He told the men to scatter and find other lifeboats and get into them. Lt. Shanks went to the next lifeboat and climbed down a rope ladder and jumped into the lifeboat that was jammed full of people. Within half an hour the Mallory her self was gone from the surface leaving the men huddling together some in lifeboats and some in the icy cold water. Those in the water did not last long as the bitter cold water took many. The lifeboat that Lt. Shanks was in was in the water about 6 hours from 4 am until the time that they were rescued by the USCGC Bibb at 10 am that morning.
Lt. Shanks suffered hearing loss from the explosion of the torpedo and resulting blast. He did not receive any medical treatment for the hearing loss and everyone was busy with the war, he had a job to do. As a result of this Mr. Shanks is profoundly hard of hearing today.
The USCGC Bibb took her rescued survivors on to Reykjavik, Iceland. Lt. Shanks then for the next 9 months carried out his duties as commander of the base radio station. While stationed in Iceland Lt. Shanks received a letter from the War Department wanting to know why there was such a high causality rate in the sinking of the Mallory. He replied that he thought it was due to the cold water and wind, plus the blast hit into the compartment where about 50 Marines were situated.
In November of 1943 Lt. Shanks left Iceland for England where 3 weeks before D-Day was appointed Company Commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 50th Signal Battalion. Arthur Shanks took part in the D-Day landings with the 5th Corps landing on Utah Beach. "At eight o'clock in the morning on June 6, 1944, they dumped us out in the water about neck high" commented Shanks. "We had to wade ashore. You were on your own." He was among 23,000 others of the US 5th Corps storming Utah beach that morning. He remarks "It was a lot safer on Utah beach than on the other beaches."
About a month after the landings he was transferred to First Army Headquarters, 17th Signal Battalion. He had a crew of about 37 men with telephone carrier equipment and furnished communications from the First Army Headquarters down to the Corp level. Lt. Shanks followed the front lines as they moved steadily across the hard fought for ground into France, Belgium, and Holland and into Germany. His unit reached the Elbe River and waited for the Russians but they never showed up so they turned around and went back.
After the war Shanks now a Captain, came home in July of 1945 to marry Eleanor Hancock. Mr. and Mrs. Shanks have lived in Providence, Kentucky all their lives. After the war Shanks took his former job in Providence at the Ruby Lumber Company. Then he bought a local appliance and bottled gas store and ran that for 11 years when he sold out and took over the Providence Federal Savings and Loan. After another 12 years he finally retired from working. Mr. Shanks on March 14, 2004 will be 90 years old. He still lives in Providence Kentucky and lost his wife of 56 years this past April (2003). He has enjoyed a good life and likes to golf and fish and travel.
Mr. Shanks was interviewed by JUDY MITCHELL of Providence, Kentucky on 12 January, 2004. This story was written from the interview notes that Judy supplied to me and from a previous interview by Gwen Bolin Hilcox, Assistant News Editor of the Journal-Enterprise.
Louis Strauss, service No. 32359571 a Veteran of World War II, and holder of the Purple Heart Decoration relates his experiences during that conflict:
"Drafted in 1942 at the age of twenty, I was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for basic training. Upon completion of that training I was assigned to the 455th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, as a radio operator and machine-gunner. The unit was sent to Boston harbor, where we boarded a troop transport, the USS Henry R. Mallory, and set sail for England. I was quartered in the hold of the ship, with the units barracks bags.
En route, I met a Lieutenant (his name may have been Myanni from Boston), and got into a conversation with him. It turned out that his mother used to come into our store, Red Star Wallpaper and Paint Company, in Wilmington, Delaware. (According to Brian the mother lived in Kennet Square) We chatted for a while and he asked me if I wanted a job in the galley. I agreed and was happy to move up from the hold of the ship. As it turned out while working in the galley, I became friendly with the Baker. He worked all night, baking, so he insisted that I use his bunk at night instead of the hold of the ship. What a fateful decision that turned out to be.
During the voyage, with the first stop being Iceland, exact destinations were kept secret. We had lifeboat exercises, where I was assigned to lifeboat No. 5. Since I was now in a cabin, I practiced walking up to the boat deck, in the dark, in case anything happened, so I could easily find my boat position.
After many days at sea, we were about 500 miles from Iceland, when we were hit by two torpedoes. Panic broke out, together with the smell of burning oil and smoke. Everyone was screaming in panic and the conditions were chaotic. I ran as fast as I could to the boat deck looking for Lifeboat No. 5. I felt so lucky that I had practiced, unwittingly, for this moment that we all prayed would never come. But it did on February 7th, 1943.
I looked for my lifeboat, but it was already in the water. I moved to another area, but there were no other lifeboats. I climbed over the railing to a rope ladder and climbed down to get off the ship that was now listing badly and sinking. It was a nightmare.
Fire, seeping oil, machine-gunning sounds, sirens, screaming and smoke, was what I was experiencing. The water was freezing and snow was now falling. I was knocked off my perch by a tremendous wave and thrown into the frigid water. It seemed that I was under water for a long time. Oil and debris faced me as I popped up from the cold sea, pulling on a rope that hung down from the vessel. I found my way to a nearby lifeboat, where I was about to be pulled in by a friend I recognized. (possibly his name was Staff Sgt. Rossam) But before he could help me aboard, I was hit from behind by another lifeboat and injured badly. I hung on and was finally taken aboard.
Dead bodies were floating by, and some were in the lifeboat. Survivors were praying. I suddenly remembered hearing somewhere that most people can last only about 7 minutes in such cold water, and survive. The last thing I remember was bright colors coming, and then I became unconscious. I didn't know until later that what I had seen was a camouflaged British ship that came to rescue us. I think that the name of the British ship was Campanula. (The HMS Campanula was in fact a British Corvette serving as a Convoy Escort ship in Convoy SC-118 that the Mallory was sailing in when she was attacked on February 7, 1943)
Later I heard someone say: "a cup of tea Yank?" I realized then that I was alive. While recuperating on the British ship, the British Navy was dropping depth charges, trying to sink the German sub that sank our ship. Every time a depth charge exploded, our ship would lift in the water. I hurt every time this happened. I think that we had very few survivors.
An American Officer stopped by to visit me in sick bay and told me not to discuss anything that had happened to our ship, or to the convoy.
I ended up in the Royal Naval Hospital, Liverpool, England, where I was treated for hematoma, (from the oil in the water), contusions and hypothermia. I was in the hospital for 7 months. After rehabilitation and reassignment I became a Corporal and then was prompted to Supply Sergeant and had a car and driver."
Louis, in December, 2002 under went a successful aorta valve replacement and Brian his son wrote some details of this story on his Palm Pilot while Louis mumble them while still under anesthesia.
Louis Strauss story was printed in Mail Call for veterans and given to me from his son Brian Strauss. Brian now carries on the family business of Custom Blinds, drapery and carpet. The 3rd generation business started in 1911 is now called Red Star Design Group, specializing in the sales, installations & repair of blinds, drapery, carpet, wallcovering and floorcovering... Since 1911 email@example.com
As a footnote: As his father was still under anesthesia, Brian wrote these notes down and we are putting the pieces together as best as can be figured out. These were the notes: "Life boat # 5,... Guy named Myanni, Boston, ... England Royal Naval Hospital, ...transfer to 30 general hospital, ...rehab reassign, ... POl petroleum staff sergeant Rossam, became corporal then became supply sergeant had car with driver, outfit ship mallet prison."
Raymond D. Henn, Sr. relates about his father, Pvt. William J. Henn, Jr. Army Air Corps, who was a suvivor of the Mallory sinking. On the morning of the sinking Pvt. Henn had just gone topside to get his eyes adjusted as he was about to go on watch. He was at his post with a Navy crewman of the Mallory when the torpedo hit. Henn found that his assigned lifeboat was destroyed so he climbed down a rope ladder to the icy cold water of the Atlantic, but the Mallory listed and he was floating free of the ship. Henn found himself sinking in the water when someone pulled him by his hair onto a life raft. Pvt. Henn was later rescued by the Coast Guard cutter Bibb and spent time in the Bibb's sick bay due to the effects of the cold water to his lower extremities. The Bibb took her rescued men to Iceland where Henn was hospitalized there for some time. While there he wrote a letter describing the sinking and rescue.
Pvt. John P. McNally was in a Coast Artilllery Unit traveling on the Mallory when she went down that icy cold morning in February. John passed away in 1991 and the only things that remain from that day in 1943 are some newspaper clippings and some things that John McNally kept from the ship that day. A scrap of canvas with USS Mallory stenciled on it, and an army voucher for $50 in lost personal property from the sinking are all that connect his son, John P. "Jack" McNally Jr. to that day in February of 1943.
Jack recalls about his father, "My father didn't talk much about the sinking, but he did mention that he witnessed one officer give up his life jacket to a young soldier who was about to jump into a life raft without one. Once in the ocean, my father's raft kept capsizing. The survivors who were aboard had to repeatedly right the raft and bail continuously. He thought that the energy they expended during their frantic efforts may have kept them from freezing. He spent the rest of his tour in Iceland. His hours in the North Atlantic that February must have somehow reduced his susceptibility to cold, and even a freezing Icelandic winter didn't seem to bother him. Years later, he could swim in waters anyone else would have found too frigid to endure."
John P. McNally was born in New York city on January 8, 1920, and passed away on December 28, 1991. His wife Armonde passed away on August 17, 1992 and both are buried in Harlingen, Texas.
Armonde and John P. McNally wedding photo.
The above two V-Mail letters were written by Elizabeth Smith to John P. McNally asking about the fate of her son, William Smith who was killed February 7, 1943 when the Mallory went down. Below are transcripts of each letter.
To: Private John P. McNally (32408654)
From: Mrs. Elizabeth Smith
July 6, 1943
Dear Private McNally,
First of all I should like to explain to you the reason for my taking the liberty of writing. Your name was supplied to me by the War Department a survivor of a ship sunk in the North Atlantic in early February. My son, Private William A. Smith of the Coast Artillery Corps has been reported as "missing in action" due to the sinking of that ship.
I fully realize that the possibility that you could know him among so many men is extremely remote but I did think that you could furnish me with some sort of information concerning the hope of survival under the conditions. Could he have been picked up by some ship or be a prisoner of war?
Thank you most sincerely.
To: Pvt. John P. McNally
From: Mrs. Elizabeth
September 7, 1943
Dear Private McNally,
I received your letter and I want to thank you for being so kind and understanding. You really give me more information than the Government or anyone I have been trying to get in touch with. I appreciate it very much. It was a great comfort to know that Bill got off the ship safely.
Do you really think that he might have reached some isolated island around there?
I'd like to send you something but first need a letter with the request from a soldier. Will you please let me know what you need?
|On April 6, 1943 the War Department made public the names of 185 Army soliders who were officially listed as "Missing in Action" for the European, Middle East, North American, Pacific areas and those who were missing at sea in the North Atlantic. Among the list published was the name of Private William A. Smith. Elizabeth Smith, William's mother wrote to another Private named John P. McNally who had survived, and was in the same unit that her son was in asking about the fate of her son. Below is an United Press news article in which Pvt. Smith is listed as "Missing in Action"|
Second Lt. John T. Stokes, USA was killed in action aboard the troopship USS Henry R. Mallory during an attack by a German U-Boat on February 7, 1943. His body was never recovered and his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing located in the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.
All his life his close friends knew John T. Stokes as “Jack” and his story begins with his grandfather William Henry Stokes, who was born in February 1855. William was married to Catherine who was born in September of 1858 and both were Illinois natives. In June of 1900 William and Catherine Stokes lives in Taylorville, Illinois where William worked as a janitor at the Taylorville School. Their children were Beatrice, Mabel, Howard, Clifford and Parnell.
“Jack” Stokes story continues through his father Howard Stokes, the third child of William and Catherine. Howard was born on April 11 of 1889 and in April of 1910 Howard Stokes was 21 and single and worked as a clerk in a drug store. Howard still lived with his parents and the family home was located at 321 W. Vine St. in Taylorville, Illinois. Howard was a medium built slender man with dark brown eyes and hair. By June of 1917 Howard was married and had a son when he registered for the Federal Draft during WWI. On the draft card he signed his name as “William Howard Stokes” but it seems as if he was commonly known as Howard throughout his life. His wife’s name was Ida L. and she was born about 1888 in Illinois. Howard was now a pharmacist at a Taylorville drug store. Howard and Ida’s home was located at 524 W. Main in Taylorville, IL.
In the early spring of 1917 Howard and Ida had a baby boy named John T. Stokes and he was born in Indiana. By April of 1930 the Howard Stokes family still lived in the same house at 524 Main Street, which Howard and Ida owned and was valued at $7,000. But now the family consisted of John T. and his sister Lillian born about 1920.
His father’s profession as a Pharmacist likely influenced John T. “Jack” Stokes and when “Jack” entered into the US Army during WWII he was in the Medical Administration Corps of the Army. Jack was a Second Lieutenant and in late January 1943 he found himself sailing toward Iceland on the troopship USS Henry R. Mallory.
Second Lt. “Jack” Stokes was from a good Catholic family and aboard the ship he met and said the rosary every night with three other Catholic men. The other three men were Catholic Chaplain’s Liston, Savignac and Whelan. Each night at 9 O’clock the four men would meet and say the rosary together. Chaplain Whelan describes 2nd Lt. “Jack” Stokes, “He was a real saint. I’d heard his confession. He never lost his baptismal innocence! And if you met the guy, you’d think he was a rough tough son of a seacook. The last I saw of him I said “Hi Jack” and he said ‘Hi Father, what shall we do?’ Father Whelan’s reply was “Let’s get the hell off this!” At the time the Mallory was listing badly.”
“Jack” Stokes would not survive the morning and likely froze to death in the icy waters. Of the four men who said the rosary every night at 9 O’clock on the Mallory only Chaplain Whelan survived. Later in life Father Whelan remarked about “Jack” Stokes, “So anyways “Jack” Stokes, the War Department up until recently, I’d get letters from the War Department with pictures from mothers asking do you remember this man etc. I wrote to John Stokes mother “You can start praying to that son of yours, I can attest before God that he never lost his Baptismal Innocence!”
Private First Class Albert Labrozzi, 325-027-41, U.S. Army was traveling aboard the USS Henry R. Mallory with his unit when she was hit by a German torpedo and sent to the bottom of the Atlantic. Labrozzi was among the few plucked from the sea by the USCGC Ingham on the morning of February 7, 1943.
Albert Labrozzi was born in New York State on June 3, 1922. He had only 1 year of high school and was working in the construction field as a mason before the war. When the United States entered the war Labrozzi went to Fort Jay on Governors Island and entered the Army on September 14, 1942. At the time he was single.
After the war Labrozzi would live the rest of his life in New York, living near Sag Harbor in Suffolk County. Albert’s brother Charles Labrozzi was a builder and mason and together they were known in the local Sag Harbor area as exacting craftsmen whose work was appreciated for its precision by builders and homeowners. Guy Dee Bennett a nephew to Albert and Charles took an apprenticeship specializing in masonry under the tutelage of his uncles Albert and Charles Labrozzi.
Albert Labrozzi and Guy Bennett built the Millstone Tavern across from the old Bridgehampton Racetrack in 1956. It was, as his family said, “a legend in its own time.” On May 3, 2001 Albert Labrozzi would pass away.
In March of 2008 George E. Smith, Jr., Commander, Chapter 780 Military Order of the Purple Heart was doing some research into Private First Class Everett T. Baker, Service Number 372-17-319, USA.
PFC Baker had been killed in action on February 7, 1943 and it was discovered from copies of his personnel records that he was aboard the USS Henry R. Mallory the morning she was attacked and sank.
PFC Baker was in the Army Ordnance Department and entered the Army from Reno County, Kansas. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing in Action or Buried at Sea at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England.
Alfred L. Cozine was born on June 15, 1920 to William and Dorinda Cozine of Bayonne, New Jersey. Alfred was the fourth son born to William and Dorinda. Henry (b. abt. 1911), Joseph (b. abt. 1915) Stanley (b. abt. 1917) were Alfred’s older brothers and he had one younger sister two years younger. William, the father, worked as a bricklayer to support his family.
By the time the United States entered into World War Two, Alfred had had two years of high school education and was then working as a clerk. On January 5, 1942 Alfred Cozine enlisted into the United States Army in New York City.
Just a few days over a year from the time he enlisted he found him self with orders in hand that would take him to Iceland. He was to take transportation there aboard the USS Henry R. Mallory. As the Mallory lay anchored in the North River in New York for a week loaded with her troops, Cpl. Cozine likely thought of what would lay before him in the forth-coming crossing to Iceland.
It was on the morning of February 7, 1943 Cpl. Cozine woke to the sound of an explosion deep within the hull of the Mallory. She had been fatally wounded and would soon sink from the surface of the sea. Cpl. Cozine made his way off the Mallory and likely thought he would die in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. But the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham rescued him along with a group of 21 other lucky shipmates.
Cozine would survive the sinking of the Mallory, and the rest of the war. He would return to his family in New Jersey and later retire to the warmth of Florida where he would pass away at the age of 63-years in Ft. Myers, FL on November 4, 1983.
Robert W. Rothbauer was born on August 11, 1922 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. During WWII Robert enlisted into the United States Army on May 7, 1942 at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. At the time he had only finished Grammar School and was single when he went into the Army.
In Late January 1943 Rothbauer who had now advanced to grade of Corporal was aboard the USS Henry R. Mallory bound for Iceland. During the morning of February 7, 1943 Cpl. Rothbauer safely got off the sinking Mallory and was rescued with 21 other shipmates by the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham.
Cpl. Rothbauer would survive the sinking and the rest of the war and returned to his home in Minnesota where he married Cecelia Agnes Yost. Together he and Cecelia had 2 sons and one daughter. Robert William Rothbauer, Jr. born Nov. 3, 1950, Janice Elvera Rothbauer born April 1, 1954, and Charles Albert Rothbauer born Sept. 29, 1966.
Robert W. Rothbauer, Sr. would pass away on June 3, 1993 in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
There were 272 men who perished when the USS Henry R. Mallory sank and each man had a life and a story. Each man who lost his life that day deserves to be remembered for all time. In our minds they are still young just the way there were on that day in February of 1943.Once such man was 31-year old Blaine Harding Anderson a farm boy from Fillmore County, Nebraska. Blaine was the third eldest son of Leonard and Esther Anderson. The Anderson family farm was located in Bryant Township in Fillmore County and had been in the family at least as far back as Blaine’s grandfather Nels Anderson who was Swedish by birth.
Leonard’s full name was Leonard Blaine Anderson and this was where Blaine got his first name. Blaine grew up on the farm and into a man, then in September of 1942 he, like so many other American farm boys joined the Army.
He took his basic training at Fort Crook, Nebraska and then was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There, Private First Class Blaine H. Anderson Service Number 37-259-661 was placed into the Army’s Ordnance Department. Additional training was undertaken and he was transferred to Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas, then to Bloomington, Illinois, and finally to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts. It was from Camp Miles Standish that PFC Anderson received orders for his unit to sail for overseas duty.
On December 21, 1942, PFC Blaine H. Anderson boarded the USS Henry R. Mallory and headed out into the dangerous waters of the cold Atlantic. Likely this was the one and only time Blaine had seen the ocean, it would be a view that would take his life. Also aboard the Mallory in Anderson’s Ordnance unit was PFC Everett T. Baker. Both were farm boys, Everett from Kansas and Blaine from Nebraska, and sadly both would not survive when the ship was hit and sunk. The last moments for both will be never known but possibly those two farm boys may have been together until the end.
The bodies of Anderson and Baker were not recovered and all that remains are the memories of their family members and the inscriptions of their names in the stone tablets in the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. Blaine H. Anderson was awarded the Purple Heart Posthumously and received a Certificate of Recognition from Nebraska Governor Dwight Griwold along with a Citation from President Roosevelt.
On February 7, 1943 in Nuckolls County, Nebraska on the Katherine and Frederick Wilhelm Hornbussel Farm, Katherine likely rose to a morning filled with the daily chores of any typical Nebraska farm family. But on that morning Katherine likely says a prayer that two of her sons would be kept safe from harm as they were both serving on Active Duty in the United States Army. But as she started her day one of her sons had already been killed in action, and we will never know if she had any feelings that a dark shadow had been cast upon the Hornbussel family that day. Katherine would before wars end have to endure the unthinkable and have two of her sons taken from her by the war.
PFC Frederick A. Hornbussel was born in 1921 and was the sixth of eight children born to the Katherine (nee Grummert 1890-1963) and Frederick Wilhelm (1884-1961) Hornbussel. The eight children were Erna K. born about 1909, Lenora M. born about 1912, Edwin F. born about 1913, George H. born about 1915, Dorthea K. born about 1918, Pauline M. born about 1924 and Rosella L. born about 1928, all born on the farm in Nuckolls County, Nebraska.
Frederick A. Hornbussel’s older brother George F. was the other son who was killed in action during the war. Before America entered into WWII George F. Hornbussel joined the army on October 9, 1941. George would become a Sergeant with the 162nd Infantry, 41st Division and would serve in the Pacific theater during the war. Frederick A. Hornbussel also joined the Army and was serving in the Ordnance Department. In December of 1942 his unit was ordered to duty on Iceland and was to take transportation there aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory. Being that the attack on the Mallory occurred early in the morning it is very likely that PFC Hornbussel was asleep in his bunk deep within the hulls of the ship.
On the Mallory the troops had standing orders to sleep fully clothed so that in the event they had to abandon ship they would have sufficient clothes on to protect them from the elements. But due to the fact that the berthing areas for the troops were very hot many troops stripped down to skivvies in order to sleep. It’s not known if PFC Hornbussel was clothed or not but the fact is that many who made it off the ship and into the water died due to exposure to the cold weather and freezing water because they did not have on enough clothes.
When the Cutter Bibb came across the main floating body of debris and men from the Mallory orders were given that men who were already dead were not to be brought aboard because it took too much time and the Bibb was setting still in the water and was an inviting target for the Germans. So it is a fair guess that if PFC Hornbussel made it off the ship that he froze to death in the water.
Back home in Nebraska it was several days or even months until the family was notified that PFC Frederick A. Hornbussel was listed as Missing in Action. Finally one year and a day after the sinking of the Mallory the Army classified Hornbussel’s death and moved him off the Missing list and onto the Killed in Action list. It would be about 4 months later that Katherine and Frederick Hornbussel would receive another notice from the Army stating that Sergeant George H. Hornbussel had been Killed in Action on June 12, 1944 on the Island of Biak in the New Guinea campaign. Now in the Hornbussel’s window the two blue stars indicating they had two sons on active duty were now both Gold. The Hornbussel’s had given two sons to this war and Katherine and Frederick likely felt that could not give any more, and prayed for the safety of the third child they had serving in the war effort. Paulina the next youngest child was serving as a nurse. Paulina had joined the Nursing Corps on December 1, 1943 and Katherine and Frederick prayed she would not be deployed overseas.
PFC Frederick A. Hornbussel’s body was not recovered and he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal Posthumously.
Today the only reminder of PFC Frederick A. Hornbussel is his name engraved on the stone Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. His brother Sgt. George F. Hornbussel was buried on Biak Island temporarily and then moved after the war to his permanent resting place that being in the Fort McKinley National Cemetery, Manila, Philippine Islands.
One of the few Army officers to survive the sinking of the Mallory on February 7 was 2nd Lt. Donald R. Van Dalsem, U. S. Army, Signal Corps. Somehow Lt. Van Dalsem managed to get off the ship and was among the 20 men picked up by the Cutter Ingham. Of the 20 men the Ingham plucked from the sea, two men died aboard the Cutter shortly after they were brought aboard. Lt. Van Dalsem would survive the sinking and also survive the remainder of the war, although it is not known what he did have the Mallory sinking.
Donald Ray Van Dalsem was born on September 3, 1921 to Iva (Steely) and Ray Alexander Van Dalsem of Kansas. In 1925 the Van Dalsem family was living in Hiawatha, Kansas where Ray was working as a mechanic in an auto repair shop. Donald who was 3-years old at the time would be the couple’s only child. Sometime within the next 5-years Ray and Iva had been divorced and Donald stayed with his mother Iva. In the spring of 1930 Iva and Donald were still living in Hiawatha at 604 Pottawatomie Street.
About 1935 Donald went to live with his father Ray who had been remarried, and was living on a farm in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Ray was then working the family farm and Donald was attending the Shawnee-Mission High School in Merriam, Kansas where he would have graduated in 1940. Ray and his second wife, Ethel did not have any children together and Donald was the only child.
Within two years of Donald graduating high school his mother Iva had passed away, America was at war and Donald had enlisted into the Army. He may have been attending college and that may be how he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. During the summer of 1945 Donald met and fell in love with Marjorie Mae Tietz and on July 2, 1945 they were married. Donald Van Dalsem may have been serving with the Army in California at the time and after the war ended he and Marjorie remained in California living in Culver City.
Donald and Marjorie or “Margie” as she was known had their first child a son named Dale Alexander who was born on August 16 of 1947 in Culver City, California. By 1956 when their second child was born they had moved to Glendora, which is a city just east of downtown Los Angles. On March 24, 1956 their second child a daughter named Sandra Patti was born. Unfortunately a little over a year from when Sandra Patti was born she died on May 13, 1957.
The marriage between Donald and Margie was not able to survive and in July of 1968 they were divorced in Los Angles. Donald may have moved away from California after his divorce and went to live in Phoenix, Arizona. He would live in Phoenix until his death on September 16, 1982.
Thomas Michael Humphreys survived the sinking of the SS Henry R. Mallory February 7, 1943 and was at the time serving as a Private in the Coast Artillery Corps of the Army. Humphreys’ unit was being transported to Iceland aboard the Mallory when she was torpedoed and sunk. After his rescue by the Cutter Bibb, Humphreys served to the end of the war with the 748th AAA Battalion in the European Theater of Operations.
Humphreys was born on September 17, 1921 in the borough of Bronx in New York City. He was the second son of Genevieve A. Reilly and Thomas Archibald “Arch” Humphreys. Growing up in the Bronx young Thomas was the son of an English immigrant who made a living as an auto mechanic. At age 18 one of Thomas Michael’s first jobs in the Bronx was a delivery boy for a local grocery store. After graduating High School Thomas took at least one year of college and by the age of 21 was working as a laboratory technician assistant.
As America declared war in December 1941 Thomas Humphreys himself within 8-months’ time would join the war effort. On July 17, 1942 at Fort Jay on Governors Island Thomas M. Humphreys enlisted into the Army. About this same time Thomas had married Johanna M. Berwind. After basic training Humphreys was ordered with his unit to duty on Iceland, and in late January 1942 was assembling and boarding the SS Henry R. Mallory.
When the war ended in 1945 Humphreys was returned back to the States, and Honorably Discharged from the Army on October 17, 1945, and picked up his life where he had left it over 3-years before.
Thomas and Johanna would have three sons, Thomas C., Matthew, and Phillip during their lives. They would be married for 47-years when Johanna passed away in May of 1989. During his life Thomas Humphreys worked for the International Department of Chase Manhattan Bank for 35-years retiring in 1982 but kept working part time until he was 78. And during his life he found time to work as an extra in at least 12 movies filmed in Hollywood, California.
After the death of Johanna, Thomas was the devoted companion of Mimi Moya and they for over 13-years and liked to traveled the country. But on January 12, 2005 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Thomas M. Humphreys the man who had won the battle of a sinking ship at sea and survived the Second World War, lost his battle with cancer and passed away. He was buried in the St. John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado near where his second son Matthew lives.
When the torpedo struck the Mallory that morning on February 7, 1943 it not only ended the life of the ship herself but extinguished the light of many rising young men in the prime of their lives. One such man was a 2nd Lt. in the Signal Corps of the Army troops aboard the ship. William Gordon Van Braak did not survive the day, and the story of what he could have been and could have accomplished during his life ended there at the spot the Mallory slipped beneath the surface of the icy cold Atlantic. The exact circumstances of 2nd Lt. Van Braak’s last moments will never be known, and the only lasting physical memorial to his life is the letters of his name that are carved into the stone slabs of the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. His name rests with the many thousands of his brothers who gave their lives during the Second World War.
The man who wore 2nd Lt. William G. Van Braak’s uniform was not simply known by his service number of O467331, for he had a life story, one that ended too soon and one that needs to be remembered and preserved with the many stories of who the men were that sailed aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory on that last fateful voyage.
William Gordon Van Braak was born in 1920 to Louise M. Balduc and William Barnard Van Braak in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Louise and William Barnard Van Braak had purchased a small wood frame craftsman style home sometime around 1910, which was located at 3023 Garfield Avenue in Minneapolis, and that was where they started their family. The Van Braak’s would have four children and also cared for a nephew, named John Wagner. William Barnard worked as a Minneapolis Street Car Motorman most of his life. Willian Gordon was the third and only boy in the family.
Growing up in Minneapolis William Gordon was very athletic and was a very good student. He went to West High School in Minneapolis and graduated in 1938. In his senior year he played Football, was on the boxing team, and played Intramural Diamond Ball, and was an active member of the Hi-Y club at West High School.
Once Van Braak graduated from High School, he was interested in becoming an electrical engineer and enrolled into the engineering school at the University of Minnesota and graduated with the class of 1942. While studying at the University of Minnesota, Van Braak was a member of Eta Kappa Nu; Pi Tau Pi Sigma; the Newman Club and was the publicity chairman his junior and senior year. He participated in the Engineer’s Day parade, the Engineer’s Ball, and the Electrical Show. Van Braak also was a member of the ROTC Signal Corps on campus. And he even found time to play Intramural hockey.
During his senior year, 1942, life in America had begun a change from a peace time life to a war time life. Van Braak’s life would shortly be changing also, for America needed men to become officers and lead still other men in coming battles and supporting roles to these battles. Being that Van Braak was a member of the ROTC program at the University of Minnesota, he was quickly made into a Second Lieutenant in the Army’s Signal Corps.
By the end of 1942, 2nd Lt. Van Braak had been trained and was now being sent for duty in Europe. Likely he would have thought that once he reached Europe that was where he would find the battle. But there was no way for him or his shipmates to know that the battle would come and find him before he could get to his indented place in this great battle. There within the hull of the ship he was traveling in was where he met the war head on. The battle came quickly and was over just as quickly for 2nd Lt. Van Braak. His body was never recovered, and as the rescuing ships were under orders to not spend the precious time they had to bring aboard dead men, it can be assumed that Van Braak was killed either during the torpedo explosion outright, was trapped below decks and drowned, or if he did get off the ship alive he died in the water of severe hypothermia.
Back home in Minneapolis on February 7, 1943 life for the Van Braak family had just changed forever with the loss of a son, and brother to three sisters, but life may have gone on as if nothing had happened. It is not known how or when word reached the family about their beloved. Likely 2nd Lt. Van Braak was put on the Missing in Action list, which was the case for many of the men from the Mallory sinking. By law a man on the MIA list remained on the list for a year and a day before he could be re-classified as Killed in Action if no body was recovered. For Louise Van Braak that year and a day, likely felt like an eternity before her son was declared Killed in Action. There was no cemetery she could go to and grieve, she only now had his memory of fond times of his youth. Memories of football games, boxing matches, and the fading image of a young man standing tall and smart in his ROTC uniform, never again to wrap his arms around a very proud mother and give her a goodbye kiss on the cheek.
This is the end of the life story of 2nd Lt. William G. Van Braak O467331, United States Army, Signal Corps. KIA February 7, 1943. But by telling and preserving his story here, it can be said that his memory of his life and his service to this Country will not be forgotten.
William Gordon Van Braak. Photo taken for the 1942 Minnesota Golden Gophers Year book.
© 2005-2017 Joe Hartwell. This page was first up-loaded on 2 February 2006 and last modified on:
If you have research comments or additional information on this page e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell